Sidewinding with minimal slip: Snake and robot ascent of sandy slopes Public Deposited

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This is the author’s version of the work. It is posted here by permission of the AAAS for personal use, not for redistribution. The definitive version was published in the journal Science on 10 October 2014, Volume 346 number 6206, DOI: 10.1126/science.1255718. The published article is copyrighted by the American Association for the Advancement of Science and can be found at:


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  • Limbless organisms like snakes can navigate nearly all terrain. In particular, desert-dwelling sidewinder rattlesnakes (C. cerastes) operate effectively on inclined granular media (like sand dunes) that induce failure in field-tested limbless robots through slipping and pitching. Our laboratory experiments reveal that as granular incline angle increases, sidewinder rattlesnakes increase the length of their body in contact with the sand. Implementing this strategy in a physical robot model of the snake enables the device to ascend sandy slopes close to the angle of maximum slope stability. Plate drag experiments demonstrate that granular yield stresses decrease with increasing incline angle. Together these three approaches demonstrate how sidewinding with contact-length control mitigates failure on granular media.
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  • Marvi, H., Gong, C., Gravish, N., Astley, H., Travers, M., Hatton, R. L., ... & Goldman, D. I. (2014). Sidewinding with minimal slip: Snake and robot ascent of sandy slopes. Science, 346(6206), 224-229. doi:10.1126/science.1255718
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  • 346
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  • 6206
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  • We thank theNational Science Foundation (NSF) (CMMI-1000389,PHY-0848894, PHY-1205878, and PHY-1150760); ArmyResearch Office under grants W911NF-11-1-0514 andW911NF1310092; the Army Research Lab Micro AutonomousSystems and Technology Collaborative Technology Alliance undergrant W911NF-08-2-0004; and the Elizabeth Smithgall Wattsendowment, for financial support. D.I.G., H.C., and D.H. alsoacknowledge the Army Research Office and NSF Physics of LivingSystems for supporting the Locomotion Systems ScienceWorkshop in Arlington, Virginia, May 2012.
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