Towards a terradynamics of legged locomotion on homogeneous and Heterogeneous granular media through robophysical approaches
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The objective of this research is to discover principles of ambulatory locomotion on homogeneous and heterogeneous granular substrates and create models of animal and robot interaction within such environments. Since interaction with natural substrates is too complicated to model, we take a robophysics approach – we create a terrain generation system where properties of heterogeneous multi-component substrates can be systematically varied to emulate a wide range of natural terrain properties such as compaction, orientation, obstacle shape/size/distribution, and obstacle mobility within the substrate. A schematic of the proposed system is discussed in detail in the body of this dissertation. Control of such substrates will allow for the systematic exploration of parameters of substrate properties, particularly substrate stiffness and heterogeneities. With this terrain creation system, we systematically explore locomotor strategies of simplified laboratory robots when traversing over different terrain properties. A key feature of this proposed work is the ability to generate general interaction models of locomotor appendages with such complex substrates. These models will aid in the design and control of future robots with morphologies and control strategies that allow for effective navigation on a large diversity of terrains, expanding the scope of terramechanics from large tracked and treaded vehicles on homogeneous ground to arbitrarily shaped and actuated locomotors moving on complex heterogeneous terrestrial substrates.