Researchers from Moog and IIT-Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia recently completed the design, assembly and testing of the new version of the hydraulic HyQReal quadruped robot. Its capabilities were demonstrated by pulling an 3,300-kg (7,275 lb) airplane for more than 10 m (394 in). The compact HyQReal is just 1.33 m (52 in.) long, and stands only 90 cm (35 in.) tall and weighs 130 kg (287 lb), even with hydraulic infrastructure and batteries onboard.
The robot has customized rubber feet for high traction on the ground and is protected by an aluminum roll cage and a skin made of Kevlar, glass fiber and plastic. A 48-V battery powers four electric motors connected to four hydraulic pumps. The robot has two computers on board: one dedicated to vision and one to its control.
The new design was tested in the Genova Airport, with the support of Piaggio Aerospace, to demonstrate the power of HyQReal by pulling a Piaggio P180 Avanti, a small passenger airplane weighing more than 3 tons, with a length of 14.4 m (567 in.) and a wingspan of 14 m (551 in.).
Moog partnered with IIT, a research institute that promotes excellence in basic and applied research fostering Italy’s economic development, in 2016, when both created the joint lab to develop the next generation of hydraulic legged robots. The partnership combines IIT’s knowledge of designing the hardware and software of legged robots, with Moog’s expertise in miniature, high-performance actuation solutions.
The HyQReal quadruped robot is developed to support humans in emergency scenarios. These hydraulically powered quadruped robots have been under development by researchers at the IIT since 2007. The long-term goal of the project is to create the hardware, software and algorithms for robust quadruped vehicles for rough terrain that can be tailored to a variety of applications, such as disaster response, agriculture, decommissioning, and inspection. Compared to the previous versions, HyQReal is completely power-autonomous with onboard hydraulics, batteries and wireless communication. Furthermore, the robot features a higher ruggedness, reliability and energy efficiency.
“Pulling a plane allowed us to demonstrate the robot’s strength, power-autonomy and the optimized design. We wanted to achieve something that has never been done before, and we succeeded last week,” said Claudio Semini, project leader at IIT’s Dynamic Legged Systems Lab.
For the HyQReal, Moog developed the majority of the hydraulic actuation system, including the hydraulic pump units, smart manifolds, fluid rotary unions and Integrated Servo Actuators (ISA). The Integrated Smart Actuator is a lightweight hydraulic actuator with integrated servovalves, control electronics, sensors and bus communications designed for mobile robotic applications. Moog has specifically developed these components for the HyQReal and will offer this technology to equipment builders in the mobile robotics market where energy efficiency and high performance are critical.
According to Burkhard Erne, manager for Growth & Innovation at Moog Inc., “Small, mobile robots typically use electromechanical motion control solutions. HyQ-Real is larger and more powerful than many other mobile robots, and it is designed to master unstructured terrain, outdoors. For high-power dexterous motion control, hydraulics has numerous advantages including: substantially lower “unsprung” mass (weight of suspension and components connected versus supported by the suspension), higher power density, better drive transparency, integral cooling and lubrication. These advantages help the robot to move faster, to walk more dynamically in unstructured terrain and to be more robust when hitting obstacles.”
IIT has led the overall development of the robot’s hardware and software. In terms of hardware, IIT focused on the design of the torso, legs, electronics, hydraulic hoses, and fall protection and sensing technology. Additionally, it coordinated the integration of the actuation subsystems developed by Moog. In terms of software, IIT adapted its locomotion control framework that it has developed over the last decade.
“Thanks to IIT and Moog’s complementary expertise, we managed to enhance our control software with increased safety and modularity,” said Victor Barasuol, who is in charge of HyQReal’s control technology.
The HyQReal team at IIT is international, composed of 14 people from Italy, Switzerland, Brazil, England, Canada, Egypt, the Netherlands, and Mexico. The development of HyQReal was funded by the Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia and Moog Inc. with the support of INAIL – the National Institute for Insurance against Accidents at Work and the European Union under the framework of project ECHORD++.