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research-article

Controller Design, Analysis and Experimental Validation of a Robotic Serpentine Tail to Maneuver and Stabilize a Quadrupedal Robot

[+] Author and Article Information
William Rone

United States Air Force, Eglin AFB, Florida 32542
wsrone@vt.edu

Wael Saab

SoftWear Automation, Inc., Atlanta, GA 30318
waelsaab@vt.edu

Anil Kumar

GM Cruise, LLC, San Francisco, CA 94103
anilks@vt.edu

Pinhas Ben-Tzvi

Member of ASME, Associate Professor, Director, Robotics and Mechatronics Laboratory, Department of Mechanical Engineering, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Virginia, 24061
bentzvi@vt.edu

1Corresponding author.

ASME doi:10.1115/1.4042948 History: Received November 10, 2017; Revised February 14, 2019

Abstract

This paper analyzes how a multi-segment, articulated serpentine tail can enhance the maneuvering and stability of a quadrupedal robot. A persistent challenge in legged robots is the need to account for propulsion, maneuvering and stabilization considerations when generating control inputs for multi-degree-of-freedom spatial legs. Looking to nature, many animals offset some of this required functionality to their tails to reduce the required action by their legs. By including a robotic tail on-board a legged robot, the gravitational and inertial loading of the tail can be utilized to provide for the maneuverability and stability of the robot, while the legs primarily provide propulsion. System designs for the articulated serpentine tail and quadrupedal platform are presented, along with the dynamic models used to represent these systems. Outer-loop controllers that implement the desired maneuvering and stabilizing behaviors are discussed, along with an inner-loop controller that maps the desired tail trajectory into motor torque commands for the tail. Case studies showing the tail's ability to modify yaw-angle heading during locomotion (maneuvering) and to reject a destabilizing external disturbance in the roll direction (stabilization) are considered. Simulation results utilizing the tail's dynamic model and experimental results utilizing the tail prototype, in conjunction with the simulated quadrupedal platform, are generated. Successful maneuvering and stabilization are demonstrated by the simulated results and validated through experimentation.

Copyright (c) 2019 by ASME
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