Snake robot locomotion in a cluttered environment where the snake robot utilises a sensory-perceptual system to perceive the surrounding operational environment for means of propulsion is defined as perception-driven obstacle-aided locomotion (POAL). From a control point of view, achieving POAL with traditional rigidly-actuated robots is challenging because of the complex interaction between the snake robot and the immediate environment. To simplify the control complexity, compliant motion and fine torque control on each joint is essential. Accordingly, intrinsically elastic joints have become progressively prominent over the last years for a variety robotic applications. Commonly, elastic joints are considered to outperform rigid actuation in terms of peak dynamics, robustness, and energy efficiency. Even though a few examples of elastic snake robots exist, they are generally expensive to manufacture and tailored to custom-made hardware/software components that are not openly available off-the-shelf. In this work, Serpens
, a newly-designed low-cost, open-source and highly-compliant multi-purpose modular snake robot with series elastic actuator (SEA) is presented. Serpens
features precision torque control and stereoscopic vision. Only low-cost commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) components are adopted. The robot modules can be 3D-printed by using Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM) manufacturing technology, thus making the rapid-prototyping process very economical and fast. A screw-less assembly mechanism allows for connecting the modules and reconfigure the robot in a very reliable and robust manner. The concept of modularity is also applied to the system architecture on both the software and hardware sides. Each module is independent, being controlled by a self-reliant controller board. The software architecture is based on the Robot Operating System (ROS). This paper describes the design of Serpens
and presents preliminary simulation and experimental results, which illustrate its performance.
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