Modular reconfigurable robots to the rescue

In this research, we look into self-contained, autonomous, modular robotics that can change their configuration to adapt to different terrains and challenges in search and rescue operations.

In the field of automation and locomotion, it is challenging for a device to traverse varied terrain in an unknown environment. In search and rescue applications, it is imperative for exploration devices to maneuver both over rugged terrain and through small spaces, such as pipes. Modular robots allow for this versatility. By utilizing several degrees of freedom, modular robots can be manipulated into many different shapes, sizes, and patterns in order to traverse several obstacles. We have designed a modular snake robot, which we intend to use in the future as a platform to study novel control strategies that can make snake-like robots adapt locomotion behavior to a variety of terrain types.

Fig 1: Conceptual configuration of the modules to mimic a snake

Research Members: Isuru Godage, Patrick Hall and Robert J Webster.

In our first prototype, we have designed a modular snake robot used to test a communication system that will control actuation of the robots joints. The snake robot consists of our interlocking Containment for On-Board Robotic Actuation (COBRA) modules displayed in Fig 2.

Fig 2: (Left) The CAD drawing of a single COBRA module (Middle): Fully assembled COBRA module; (Right( Disassembled COBRA module

The ongoing research integrates batteries and wireless communication for fully autonomous operation that can yield at least 5 hours of field operation.

Fig 3: Some possible configurations that the proposed modular snake robots can make.


  1. Patrick Hall, Isuru S. Godage, “Development of the COBRA Module used to Explore Locomotion in Modular Robots”, in IEEE International Conference on Automation Science and Engineering (CASE), 2016.