Collision-based energetic comparison of rolling and hopping over obstacles.

22 May 2018

Locomotion of machines and robots operating in rough terrain is strongly influenced by the mechanics of the ground-machine interactions. A rolling wheel in terrain with obstacles is subject to collisional energy losses, which is governed by mechanics comparable to hopping or walking locomotion. Here we investigate the energetic cost associated with overcoming an obstacle for rolling and hopping locomotion, using a simple mechanics model. The model considers collision-based interactions with the ground and the obstacle, without frictional losses, and we quantify, analyse, and compare the sources of energetic costs for three locomotion strategies. Our results show that the energetic advantages of the locomotion strategies are uniquely defined given the moment of inertia and the Froude number associated with the system. We find that hopping outperforms rolling at larger Froude numbers and vice versa. The analysis is further extended for a comparative study with animals. By applying size and inertial properties through an allometric scaling law of hopping and trotting animals to our models, we found that the conditions at which hopping becomes energetically advantageous to rolling roughly corresponds to animals' preferred gait transition speeds. The energetic collision losses as predicted by the model are largely verified experimentally.