Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to present new locomotion and steering modules conceived and designed for rescue serpentine robots with enhanced climbing ability. The locomotion modules apply sock locomotion technology that allows great motion efficiency in rubble and confined environment due to the very high propulsion ratio. The steering joints guarantee good orientation dexterity by exploiting actuation based on smart materials. Design/methodology/approach: Great attention and time is dedicated to the design phase, digital mock-upping and virtual comparative assessment of different solutions. Mechatronic interdisciplinary design methodology including mechanisms analysis, sensory actuation issues and functional materials characterization, control and communication integration has been adopted. Findings: The locomotion modules are revised and updated versions improving climbing ability of the socked locomotion module originally proposed by the authors. New steering modules with high orientation workspace, based on smart actuation, are introduced. Research limitations/implications: The evaluation of the findings on the field is planned but no experimental result is today available. Practical implications: Agile serpentine robots are requested for quick and safe rescue and special risky interventions in environments where dense vegetation, rubble and confined spaces prevent human presence. These robots offer invaluable potential help in such risky interventions mainly by being agile in exploring the environment, robust, low cost, reliable, and tele-operated. Originality/value: The paper presents original issues in terms of concept and design of instrumental (locomotion and steering) modules for composing modular rescue robots with very high locomotion agility and climbing performances.
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