“Snake robots can use their many internal degrees of freedom to thread through tightly packed volumes, accessing locations that people and machinery otherwise cannot use,” http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-22340218 The latest in a series of “modular snake robots” have been developed at the Pittsburgh-based research centre over the past decade. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ObTR5IRKY8k&feature=share&list=UUZ1JsYlIhkhEpJHFRny4J7w The robots are designed to mirror the way their natural counterparts move through “lateral undulation”, the synchronised muscle contractions used by snakes that allow them to appear to be gliding over the ground. “Moreover, these highly articulated devices can co-ordinate their internal degrees of freedom to perform a variety of locomotion capabilities that go beyond the capabilities of conventional wheeled and the recently developed legged robots.”Previous tests by the team have involved launching one of its snake robots up a tree, which it gripped onto. The machine was able to do this thanks to accelerometers built into its segments, which detected when it hit the tree’s bark. This then triggered a coiling action, wrapping the robot’s body around a branch to prevent it falling off.
Earlier robots have successfully navigated their way through the inside of pipes, crawled into storm drains and swum through water while protected by a “waterproof skin”.