Blog / Hexapod

Combine’s favourite pet has been adopted by a new pair of owners!

The hexapod, as you may know, is a six-legged robot that has served as the platform for master thesis projects at the Combine Lund office. The hexapod projects started out as a vision of an autonomous robot that could navigate areas where humans cannot go. This could for example include buildings with the risk of collapsing, toxic sites etc. Also, the robot should not suffer from the restrictions typically imposed on a wheeled robot – for instance, a small wheeled robot could have serious problems climbing obstacles or moving sideways. Now, one could argue that this scope also includes a flying platform, such as a quadcopter. This is true, and that was indeed the first approach developed, using a hexacopter. However, while the results were promising, the lessons learned showed that requirements on the hexacopter (e.g. size, accurate sensors, pontential hazards etc.) limited its use for these particular cases. Enter – the hexapod! Due to its many legs and degrees of freedom, this platform fulfills all the requirements, in a rather compact design.

The previous projects implemented motion control and artifial intelligence (e.g. path planning). The purpose of the current master thesis is to build upon the previous projects by adapting the hexapod to challenging surroundings. More specifically, when the last master thesis ended, the hexapod was able to detect obstacles and plan a new path to avoid them – at the end of this project, the hexapod will face the challenge head-on.

During the first phase, the work has included improving the hexapod computational performance, since a lack of performance was concluded in the last master thesis. As the project now enters the next phases, the focus will be on developing new functionality and algorithms. For instance, the path planning must be reconstructed to allow the hexapod to traverse the obstacle or, if the obstacle proves to be too challenging, to move around it. Also, the aim is for the hexapod to balance at all times, with a horizontally oriented body, which means a fair amount of work on the motion control functionality.

The students for this project are Oliver Palm and Jonatan Ekelund. They both study for a MSc in Electrical Engineering at LTH, with a specialisation in automatic control and automation. When asked why they chose Combine and the hexapod for the master thesis project, Oliver replies: “Ever since starting at LTH, we have been fascinated by robots. When we got the opportunity to do our master thesis project on the hexapod at Combine, we were really excited. I mean, an autonomous, climbing hexapod? Pretty cool project! Also, it feels like a perfect match considering our specialisation – we were looking for a project where we could apply as much of what we had studied as possible, and this is it!”

The project is due in June and we are looking forward to see the results of their hard work. When available, videos and more information will of course be published on the website.

Do you have any cool ideas for future projects? Let us know! Also, drop by the student portal for latest news and openings.