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Winging it DASH grows wings and sails into an old debate Graduate student Paul Birkmeyer designed the original DASH to search collapsed buildings and tight spaces and relay information back to its handlers via sensors. But even with six legs, the autonomous robot struggled over uneven ground and was prone to tipping over when dropped from heights. That’s when graduate student Kevin Peterson and Ron Fearing, EECS professor and head of the Biomimetic Millisystems Lab, decided to attach wings. The result, a running and gliding robot, sparked the interest of Robert Dudley, professor of integrative biology, who thought that DASH’s evolution was a physical example of computer models that suggest a similar pattern in animal flight evolution. Little is known about early flight because of holes in the fossil record. Now, a small roach-like robot with plastic wings borrowed from a toy is providing important insights into the natural history of flight. DASH and BOLT photos by Kevin Peterson, OCTOROACH PHOTO by Andrew Pullin




The original six-legged, roach-inspired DASH was designed as a lowcost search and rescue robot, but its mobility over rough terrain was limited due to balance and speed. So the researchers decided to attach wings. 10

Legs and tail wing only; testing to see how the rudder-like tail affected overall speed and stability.


The addition of inertial spars, which are the frames for the lateral wings; testing to see how outrigger-like appendages affect balance. In other tests, passive lateral wings are attached but do not flap; testing to see if the wings themselves increase performance.


The addition of flapping wings made DASH perform much better than in any of the control groups in all areas of locomotion, from horizontal speed to attainable incline and glide slope.

Berkeley Engineer Spring 2012  
Berkeley Engineer Spring 2012  

Spring 2012 issue of Berkeley Engineer, the alumni magazine for UC Berkeley College of Engineering. Inaugural issue replacing Forefront.