Getting Air: Modelling and Control of a Hybrid Pneumatic-Electric Legged Robot

Christopher Mailer1, Stacey Leigh Shield1, Reuben Govender2, Amir Patel1

  • 1University of Cape Town
  • 2University of Cape Town,


09:00 - 10:40 | Thu 1 Jun | PODS 31-33 (Posters) | ThPO1S-18.08

Session: Legged Motion Analysis and Synthesis


With their combination of power and compliance, pneumatic actuators have great potential for enabling dynamic and agile behaviors in legged robots, but their complex dynamics impose control challenges that have hindered widespread use. In this paper, we describe the development of a tractable model and characterization procedure of an off-the-shelf double acting pneumatic cylinder controlled by on/off solenoid valves for use in trajectory optimization. With this we are able to generate motions which incorporate both the body and actuator dynamics of our robot Kemba: a novel quadrupedal robot prototype with a combination of electric and pneumatic actuators. We demonstrate both a 0.5m jump and land maneuver, and a maximal 1m jump, approximately 2.2 times its leg length, on the physical hardware with the proposed model and approach. The hardware matches the desired trajectory with a maximum height error of only 5 cm without any feedback on the pneumatic joints, demonstrating the utility of the model in high-level motion generation, and capability of the physical robot.