CLIO: a Novel Robotic Solution for Exploration and Rescue Missions in Hostile Mountain Environments

Michele Focchi, Mohamed Bensaadallah, Marco Frego, Angelika Peer, Daniele Fontanelli, Andrea Del Prete, Luigi Palopoli

Rescue missions in mountain environments are hardly achievable by standard legged robots - because of the high slopes - or by flying robots - because of limited payload capacity. We present a novel concept for a rope-aided climbing robot, which can negotiate up-to-vertical slopes and carry heavy payloads. The robot is attached to the mountain through a rope, and is equipped with a leg to push against the mountain and initiate jumping maneuvers. Between jumps, a hoist is used to wind/unwind the rope to move vertically and affect the lateral motion. This simple (yet effective) two-fold actuation allows the system to achieve high safety and energy efficiency. Indeed, the rope prevents the robot from falling, while compensating for most of its weight, drastically reducing the effort required by the leg actuator. We also present an optimal control strategy to generate point-to-point trajectories overcoming an obstacle. We achieve fast computation time ($<$1 s) thanks to the use of a custom simplified robot model. We validated the generated optimal movements in Gazebo simulations with a complete robot model, showing the effectiveness of the proposed approach, and confirming the interest of our concept. Finally, we performed a reachability analysis showing that the region of achievable targets is strongly affected by the friction properties of the foot-wall contact.

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