A new hybrid microvehicle called the hopping rotochute, designed specifically to operate within small interior spaces will shortly join the US Army’s fleet of robots.

The hopping rotochute will be capable of travelling deep into obstacle-ridden areas such as caves and destroyed buildings to capture video intelligence.

The rotochute is a self-righting robot, being developed for the US Army Research Lab by robotics engineers at Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, that is capable of robustly interfacing with ground surfaces. It can even hover.

Robotics engineer Mark Costello said that the project attains significance because present-day military robots, which run on small tank-style tracks, cannot cope with irregular surfaces and obstacles such as rubble or boulders.

“They usually have trouble and get stuck with even low obstacles and walls a couple of feet high,” he said.

The Rotochute traverses an area by intermittently powering a small coaxial rotor system that allows the device to hop over obstacles in different forms, while still conserving battery power.

The self-righting vehicle uses an internal mass that rotates around the perimeter of the body to tilt the vehicle’s main body in the desired direction before a given launch, and rotates to the nominal position once on the ground.