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Robot That Skateboards Backwards... Impressive? It Flies and Slacklines Too!

Leonardo the walking drone/quadcopter robot that skateboards and slacklines.
Leonardo the walking drone/quadcopter
robot that skateboards and slacklines.

Leonardo is a small, prototype that is half quadcopter drone and half bipedal, walking robot. While the robot, called Leo for short, can both walk and fly what makes it unique is that it uses its quadcopter system for stability, even while walking. This gives it greater balance, allowing it to perform more unique capabilities like skateboarding and slacklining.

Leo's name is derived from the phrase 'LEgs ONboARD drOne', and is the creation of Professor Soon-Jo Chung and his team from the Aerospace Robotics and Control Lab at Caltech, California. Their goal for Leo is to develop a kind of all terrain drone/robot that could feasibly perform both aerial and ground tasks in less than ideal conditions.

Which doesn't sound quite as cool as saying we built a robot that can fly, skateboard and walk a slackline. Youtube channel Veritasium showcased Leo in their video below.

Is it weird that my first takeaway from this video is a rebuttal to the presenter's assertation that 'not many people can skateboard backwards'? I mean, lots of people can skateboard backwards... literally thousands, if not more (I'm one of them and I'm not even that great anymore at skateboarding). 

Anyway, Leo's skateboard abilities isn't going to take over from any half decent pro skateboarder any time soon. On the other hand the robot's slackline ability may give professional slackliners something to ponder like... 'Why doesn't Leo just fly instead of slacklining?'

That aside I do think Leo is pretty cool as an early prototype for some kind of  human sized flying soldier (maybe?), though I'm not a fan of attaching guns to fully autonomous robots. Maybe it's the forerunner to something more practical like a robot maintenance worker that needs to make repairs at hard to access heights, like power poles or bridges etc. 

One of Leo's team contemplated the robot as some sort of space technician, noting that they'd probably have to replace the propellers with jet thrusters in an airless environment. I kind of think it's almost pointless the robot having legs in a weightless environment too. Maybe it would be better as interplanetary explorer where both walking and flight could be handy on the surface of another planet?

Whatever the future holds for Leo, let's hope it's not putting skateboarders and slackliners out of a job.

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