Title page for ETD etd-03272009-103444

Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author Goldman, Gabriel Jacob
Author's Email Address ggoldman@vt.edu
URN etd-03272009-103444
Title Design Space and Motion Development for a Pole Climbing Serpentine Robot Featuring Actuated Universal Joints
Degree Master of Engineering
Department Mechanical Engineering
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Hong, Dennis W. Committee Chair
Kasarda, Mary E. F. Committee Member
Sturges, Robert H. Committee Member
  • Universal Joints
  • Kinematics
  • Climbing
  • Robot
  • Serpentine
Date of Defense 2009-02-24
Availability unrestricted
Each year, falls from elevated structures, like scaffolding, kill or seriously injure over a thousand construction workers (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2007). To prevent such falls, the development of a robotic system is proposed that can climb and navigate on the complex structures, performing hazardous inspection and maintenance in place of humans. In this work, a serpentine robotic system is developed that will be able to climb pole-like structures, such as scaffolding and trusses, commonly found on work sites. Serpentine robots have been proven to be effective at traversing unstructured terrains and manipulating complex objects. The work presented in this thesis adds a new method of mobility for serpentine robots, specifically those with actuated universal joint structures. Movement is produced by inducing a wobbling motion between adjacent modules through oscillatory motions in the actuated axis of the universal joint. Through the frictional interactions between the modules of the serpentine and the surface of the pole, the wobbling motion lets the serpentine effectively roll up the pole’s surface.

This work investigates theoretical and experimental results for a serpentine robot climbing a pole structure. It discusses the structure and design parameters of the robot and develops relationships between them. These geometric and performance-based relationships are then used to create a design space that provides a guide for choosing a combination of module dimensions for a desired set of performance parameters. From this, case studies are shown which give examples of how the design space can be used for several different applications.

Based on the design space procedure, a serpentine robot, HyDRAS (Hyper-Redundant Discrete Robotic Articulated Serpentine) was designed and built. The robot was used to prove the validity of the design space procedure and to validate the climbing motion algorithms. Several tests were performed with HyDRAS that showed the practicality of the helical rolling motion, as well as the feasibility of serpentine pole climbing. Observations and discussion based on the experiments are given, along with the plans for future work involving pole-climbing serpentine robots.

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