Experimental studies of serpentine motion control of snake robots at inclined planes
We analyze two- and three-link planar snakelike locomotion and optimize the motion for efficiency. The locomoting system consists of two or three identical inextensible links connected via hinge joints, and the angles between the links are actuated as prescribed periodic functions of time. An essential feature of snake locomotion is frictional anisotropy: The forward, backward, and transverse coefficients of friction differ. The dynamics are studied analytically and numerically for small and large amplitudes of the internal angles. Efficiency is defined as the ratio between distance traveled and the energy expended within one period, i.e., the inverse of the cost of locomotion. The optimal set of coefficients of friction to maximize efficiency consists of a large backward coefficient of friction and a small transverse coefficient of friction, compared to the forward coefficient of friction. For the two-link case with a symmetrical motion, efficiency is maximized when the internal angle amplitude is approximately π/2 for a sufficiently large transverse coefficient. For the three-link case, the efficiency-maximizing paths are triangles in the parameter space of internal angles.