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Space Technology Research Grants

Model Predictive Control of an Underdamped, Pneumatically Actuated, Soft Robot with Flexible Links for Unmodeled Environments

Completed Technology Project

Project Introduction

Model Predictive Control of an Underdamped, Pneumatically Actuated, Soft Robot with Flexible Links for Unmodeled Environments
Soft robots (made of compliant or soft materials) are often perceived as less capable when compared to traditional rigid robots. However, the proposed work will show that we can have compliant robots that are effective when operating in uncertain conditions while still having precise, high performance control for manipulation and mobility. In order to dramatically improve control for soft robots, we will initially develop optimal control methods on a 14 degree of freedom, pneumatically actuated, fabric-based, light-weight, mechanically robust robot torso and arms. This system is underactuated and underdamped, and we expect that advances in control for this platform will translate directly to systems with similar dynamics. Furthermore, the resilience of this platform to unmodeled collisions will enable us, as part of our proposed research, to develop algorithms for collaboratively working with other soft robots or people in harsh environments such as space. The platform on which we are developing our algorithms is light-weight, relatively inexpensive, and can be compactly stored for transportation. The result of our proposed work will be a set of control algorithms that will improve the overall performance and relevance of soft robots for future NASA missions. More »

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