To survive while being chased by predators, cockroaches and geckos leap off ledges at top speed, then use their rear feet as grappling hooks to catch themselves before they fall. The wily animals then swing to the underside of the ledge, disappearing from a predator’s view.

University of California, Berkeley, biomechanics and computing experts analysed the manoeuvre to recreate the behaviour in a six-legged robot called DASH (Dynamic Autonomous Sprawled Hexapod) by fitting the robot’s rear legs with Velcro for grip.

The ultimate goal is to produce small, highly mobile search-and-rescue robots that can match the agility of cockroaches and geckos over broken terrain to reach victims quickly.

“This work is a great example of the amazing maneuverability of animals, and how understanding the physical principles used by Nature can inspire design of agile robots,” said Ron Fearing, UC Berkeley professor of electrical engineering and computer science.

The UC Berkeley team published the results of the study in the online, open-access journal PLoS ONE.

Video courtesy of PolyPEDAL Lab, UC Berkeley