The robots can scale surfaces using the same principles behind electrostatic charges, which make balloons stick to ceilings after being rubbed.
Developed by a team in SRI’s Mobile Robotics and Transducers Programme, the machines are about the size of a remote-controlled car and have caterpillar tracks similar to those on toy tanks.
Inside these tracks are materials with electro-adhesive properties, which mean that when a current is applied, the tracks are attracted to the wall, preventing the robots from falling off.
Research engineer Harsha Prahlad told BBC, “The robot carries with it positive and negative charges, and when the walls sees these charges it automatically generates the opposite charge. The robot can then clamp onto those charges.
“In some ways it is similar to rubbing a balloon and sticking it on the wall, except we carry our own power supply and are able to control the adhesion.”
Next, they’re working on walking along on the ceiling.