According to the video's caption, the Sand Flea weighs in at 11 pounds and drives like an ordinary RC car; however, thanks to a super-strong leg fired by carbon dioxide-powered pistons and an onboard stabilization system that "keeps it oriented during flight to improve the view from the video uplink and to control landings," the robot can easily and gracefully jump up to 30 feet in the air. In addition, CNET reports that it can jump 25 times per charge.
According to IEEE Spectrum, the Sand Flea, whose development is currently funded in part by the U.S. Army's Rapid Equipping Force, was born from a previous jumping robot model named the Precision Urban Hopper. The Sand Flea's predecessor was first developed back in 2009 through a collaboration between Boston Dynamics and Sandia National Labs and funded by the U.S. government's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).
Wired's Danger Room reported in November 2011 that the Sand Flea was to be battle-tested in Afghanistan and could be helpful to soldiers in combat, as each one is equipped with cameras that make it easy to remotely enter and explore a closed-off environment from a far-off location.
"Anything up to 33 feet, and it's easier to hop than hover," Sandia Labs engineer Jon Salton told Wired. "Obviously, this goes places you wouldn't be able to take a tank -- and where it makes more sense to jump instead of fly."
Check out the Sand Flea in action in the video above, and let us know: What do you think of Boston Dynamics' latest robot?