NASA has unveiled mini robots that can roll, fly, float, swim, and then morph into a single machine, making them shape-shifters. You can it at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory robotics yard in Pasadena, California, where the team is currently testing a 3D-printed prototype. It looks like a drone encased in an elongated hamster wheel rolling across the yard at first glance, but it then splits in half and reveals two halves with small propellers that become flying drones for aerial exploration. It’s essentially a self-assembling robot made of smaller robots called “cobots,” with each one housing a small propeller capable of moving independently of one another to fly along cliffsides of scientific interest.
These flying amphibious robots are just one part of an early-stage research program NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC), a department aimed at turning ideas that sound like science fiction into a reality. JPL Principal Investigator Ali Agha hopes to see Shapeshifter on a mission to Saturn’s moon Titan, the only other world in the solar system known to have liquid in the form of methane lakes, rivers and seas on its surface, in the near future.
- Feed a passion for science and technology – Kids can learn more about the challenges of space exploration with this LEGO Technic NASA Mars Rover...
- Conduct a test flight – This advanced building kit for kids ages 10 and up includes a buildable toy version of NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter, which...
- AR brings the mission to life – The accompanying augmented reality app experience lets kids dive into the details of the rover and its mission
We have very limited information about the composition of the surface. Rocky terrain, methane lakes, cryovolcanoes – we potentially have all of these, but we don’t know for certain. So we thought about how to create a system that is versatile and capable of traversing different types of terrain but also compact enough to launch on a rocket,” said JPL Principal Investigator Ali Agha.