iRonCub, the flying humanoid robot of the Italian Institute of Technology

It is useless to deny it: robots will become more and more present in our life, helping us in every situation. After the robot that interacts alone with humans and Atlas from Boston Dynamics , now in the spotlight is iRonCub, the all-Italian flying humanoid robot. Developed by IIT, the Italian Institute of Technology , the robot is designed to operate in areas affected by natural disasters, where humans struggle to reach. The project, which has almost reached its final stages, could prove to be a fundamental aid for relief efforts.

iRonCub: the humanoid robot capable of flying

The future is being built in the research laboratories of Genoa. The IIT is betting everything on iRonCub, a humanoid robot with the ability to fly and reach inaccessible and dangerous areas . At the head of the team of researchers is Daniele Pucci, who explained how the idea of ​​iRonCub was born from wanting to facilitate rescue in a post-disaster scenario.

While robots like Boston Dynamics' Spot have made tremendous progress in moving over rough terrain and in areas that are dangerous to humans, there are still many obstacles to overcome. Moving on foot has inherent limits that are still very difficult to overcome, despite the technologies used. The solution to avoiding these problems is humanoid aerial robotics .

iRonCub is the IIT's flying humanoid robot.
iRonCub is the IIT's flying humanoid robot.

This branch of robotics adds the flight component to automata, solving the problem of locomotion on earth but keeping intact the ability to manipulate objects and interact with the environment. The main disadvantage is the much higher energy consumption compared to the "ground" robots, but on the other hand the movements are easier and faster, and the rescue more immediate , since the aerial obstacles are very limited.

Air humanoid robots combine capabilities such as aerial manipulation and humanoid robotics. In this way, they solve the terrestrial locomotion problems of aerial robots and, at the same time, extend the locomotion capabilities of humanoid robots also to movement in the air. Humanoid aerial robots can walk, fly, carry objects and manipulate them, offering energy-efficient solutions to the transport of objects and their manipulation.

Daniele Pucci

iRonCub flies thanks to turbines specifically designed for the robot. The automaton is remotely controlled and is able to instantly reproduce the gestures requested by the operator. In extreme situations, such as post-earthquake disasters or floods, the robot can reach any place quickly and descend directly to the site of interest.

iCub: the beginning of everything

Behind the flying humanoid robot iRonCub is iCub, the “basic” version of the automaton and the focus of research. Jewel of the IIT, the robot is used to test various AI algorithms aimed at human-machine collaboration in robotics. The ultimate goal is to produce automata capable of continually learning and adapting.

The project started in 2004 to support the testing of algorithms designed for robots. The automaton has several cameras, microphones, force sensors, gyroscope and accelerometer and encoders at each joint. The robot can move, as well as on two legs, also on four ; he is 104cm tall, weighs 22kg and can sit and stand up effortlessly. iCub is covered with a special "skin" that allows it to interact safely with the surrounding environment. The automaton has 53 degrees of freedom of movement, of which 47 only in the upper part and 9 for each hand, making it very precise in its manipulations.

The robot code is distributed under the GPL / LGPL license and has a large community of engineers from all over the world. Even the hardware part is Open-Source: described in every detail, it is made up of pieces that are easily available on the market. iCub is used on multiple research fronts, such as neuroscience, social cognition, event-driven perception and dynamic interaction with the environment. As the robot is highly customizable, the testing areas are varied and numerous .

The article iRonCub, the flying humanoid robot of the Italian Institute of Technology comes from Tech CuE | Close-up Engineering .