A transforming rover that can drive on the ground but also fly has gained attention from NASA and other organizations looking for space-ready bots.
A transforming Mars rover candidate that can drive on the ground but also take to the air has garnered the attention of NASA and other organizations interested in its capabilities. The robot, dubbed the M4 Morphobot, could one day be deployed in search and fire rescue operations, but its unique design also means it could be a future NASA Mars Rover.
The M4 Morphobot, developed by researchers at CalTech, can transform into eight different configurations, allowing it to explore terrain on foot, drive on wheels, fly, and even swim. The team behind it cites the adaptability of animals in nature as the inspiration behind the design, allowing the bot to tackle situations that traditional rovers can’t.
“Rovers are good on the ground, but they’re not very good in the air, and fixed-wing drones are good in the air, but they’re not very good on the ground,” M4 Morphobot lead researcher Ayanna Howard says. “We need to transform to be able to do both.”
Howard and the rest of the M4 Morphobot team received initial funding from CalTech’s Transformative Research Program, with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab providing additional funding throughout subsequent development phases. The U.S. Department of Transportation has also shown interest in deploying robots based on this design.
The M4 Morphobot has already gained attention from various organizations interested in its potential uses. While it may not be selected to participate in a future Mars mission, it could potentially play a role in search and fire rescue operations here on Earth.