Disney has collaborated with composite material researchers from ETH Zurich to create a robot, named VertiGo, which can scale walls and pull off 90 degree flips. Fortune reports that the robot could be a potential successor to the Sphero BB-8 seen in Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
Making such a robot was not an easy task. The biggest challenge for developers was to maximize the ratio between thrust output and the weight of the car. According to a Disney spokesperson, carbon fiber was critical to solve this problem due to its light weight and high strength. CFRP was used for the baseplate of the car, reducing its overall weight. Researchers also used 3D printed parts along with carbon rods to make the wheels and wheel suspensions.
The robot has four wheels and a pair of tilted propellers fitted on top of the chassis of the car. The downward force that the propellers create provides the necessary force required by the car to move on ground, climb walls and even move around on the ceiling. Each of the two propellers has two degrees of freedom which enables the user to adjust and change the direction of the thrust easily. Pointing the propellers back will make the car move in a forward direction while pointing them towards the front will make it move in a backward direction.
“By transitioning from the ground to a wall and back again, VertiGo extends the ability of robots to travel through urban and indoor environments,” says Paul Beardsley, principal research scientist at Disney Research Zurich. “The robot is able to move on a wall quickly and with agility.”
The prototype of the VertiGo is not available to be the public yet. However, if you want to see it in action, check out this video below: