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What Is a Hexapod?

C. Mitchell
C. Mitchell

A hexapod is a six-legged robot used for a variety of purposes, primarily related to research. The design is modeled after six-legged insects categorized by the class Hexapoda. Commonly known members of this class include cockroaches, crickets and grasshoppers, ants, and beetles. Hexapod robots largely mimic Hexapoda locomotion. Some robots are designed with the aim of better understanding how insects in the Hexapoda group function from a biological standpoint, while others are created as a means of channeling the efficiency of these creatures’ movements into a medium that can be manipulated.

The first hexapod robots were created in biology departments of research universities. They were designed to mechanically mimic the way that Hexapoda insects move, so that scientists could learn more about the insects’ biological and neurological wiring. Insects in the Hexapoda class are some of the longest-surviving species in existence, and many biologists believe that valuable things can be learned by closely studying the intricacies of these insects’ composition.

Cockroaches are members of the class Hexapoda.
Cockroaches are members of the class Hexapoda.

As technology developed, so did the potential uses for the robots. With six legs, the hexapod has a remarkable degree of stability. It can balance its weight on a combination of its legs using an alternating tripod gait, and can engage in complex activities like climbing stairs relatively easily. A hexapod has a wider range of movements than its quadruped precursors, and can usually crawl, sprint, or flip with little effort.

The class Hexapoda include crickets and grasshoppers.
The class Hexapoda include crickets and grasshoppers.

Development of hexapods is increasingly robust in the military sector. Armies all over the world are exploring ways of using hexapods to detect land mines, traverse rocky, unstable terrain, and carry out simple delivery missions in danger zones. Depending on what it is made of, a hexapod can be very nearly indestructible, and its six-footed nature gives it an edge over other military robot models.

Most of the time, hexapod movement is controlled by hand-held remote devices. The robots can also be controlled by computer, however. Hexapods in the military setting are often outfitted with GPS capabilities, internal navigation and programming options, and cameras for instant relay back to base.

Not all hexapods are so complex. A growing number of robotics aficionados make hexapods as something of a hobby. These robots can be used around the house, or just for personal amusement. Hexapods are also increasingly popular as toys. Children interested in engineering and robotics can often find kid-friendly hexapod construction kits at toy and electronics stores.

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    • Cockroaches are members of the class Hexapoda.
      By: gosphotodesign
      Cockroaches are members of the class Hexapoda.
    • The class Hexapoda include crickets and grasshoppers.
      By: viter
      The class Hexapoda include crickets and grasshoppers.