Snake robot climbs sand dunes by mimicking sidewinders' slithering

Snakes can pretty much slither anywhere they want, inspiring many (and we mean many) military and educational institutions to try and recreate them in robotic form. Carnegie Mellon University, in particular, has been developing a robotic snake for years -- one that a team of researchers from various organizations recently tweaked to mimic the movements of a sidewinder. Why? Because prior to the update, it couldn't even climb sandy slopes inclined by about 10 degrees. The group, which has been observing snakes for a long time and has found out the secret behind sidewinders' ability to scale sand dunes, programmed the robot to replicate their unique slithering. Carnegie Mellon roboticist Hamid Marvi says it can now "climb on inclinations of up to 20 degrees on loose sand," all thanks to this upgrade.

If scientists want to send mechanical serpents to rough terrain for search-and-rescue missions, or even to another planet, they'd need to refine them further to be able to climb any surface. At the moment, though, you can read this research's technical details in the Science paper published by the team, comprised of researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology, Carnegie Mellon University, Oregon State University and Zoo Atlanta.

[Image credit: Carnegie Mellon University]