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Research ■ Robot design and Development

Robot design & Development

hyq robot 2011 front  HyQ and HyQ blue  

left: HyQ robot in kneeling position; right: HyQ with HyQ-blue that has been sold to the Agile & Dexterous Robotics Lab of ETH Zurich in July 2013.

HyQ is a fully torque-controlled Hydraulically actuated Quadruped robot (pronounced [hai-kju:]) developed in the Department of Advanced Robotics at the IIT. HyQ is designed to move over rough terrain and perform highly dynamic tasks such as jumping and running with different gaits (up to 3-4m/s). To achieve the required high joint speeds and torques, hydraulic actuators are powering the robot’s 12 active joints. For more information on the robot scroll down or refer to (Semini, dissertation, 2010).

Goals of the project are the design of versatile robots, the investigation of various aspects of quadrupedal locomotion, adjustable compliance, energy efficiency, compact hydraulic actuation and onboard power systems.


  • Walk, trot and run up to 2m/s (video at 0:40)
  • Rear and jump up to 0.5m from squat (video at 1:05)
  • Balance under unstable ground even under disturbance (video at around 1:05)
  • Animal-like step reflex (video)
  • Torque and position-controlled joints (video)
  • Indoor and outdoor operation
  • Real-time control system with dynamics simulator

 HyQ roughTerrain1 HyQ SquatJump HyQ lateralDisturbance 

System Overview

The following table lists the key specifications of the robot platform.

Dimensions (fully stretched legs) 1.0m x 0.5m x 0.98m (Length x Width x Height)
Weight 80kg (external hydraulic power supply), 100kg (onboard hydraulic power supply)
Number of active DOF 12 hydraulic actuators (8 cylinders in hip and knee flexion/extension joints and 4 rotary actuators in the hip abduction/adduction joint)
Actuator Types Hydraulic cylinders (80mm stroke, 16mm bore) and rotary hydraulic actuators
Joint range of motion 120°
Maximum torque (hydraulic cylinders) 181Nm (peak torque at 200bar pressure)
Maximum torque (rotary actuator) 120Nm (constant output torque at 200bar pressure)
Onboard sensors High-resolution relative+absolute position and torque sensors on each joint, inertial measurement unit (IMU), hydraulic system pressure, stereo camera, LIDAR
Onboard computer PC104 Pentium, real-time Linux (Xenomai) with multi-I/O boards
Control frequency 1 kHz for motor control, 250Hz for motion generation

Figure 2 shows the CAD model of the robot and 2 pictures with different views of HyQ’s mechanical skeleton built in aerospace-grade aluminium alloy and stainless steel. The robot’s torso is built with a folded aluminium alloy sheet with internal walls to achieve high torsional robustness.

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Figure 2: CAD model of HyQ with onboard hydraulic system (left) and pictures of the mechanical skeleton of HyQ (centre and right).

Leg Design

Each leg features three degrees of freedom (DOF), two in the hip (abduction/adduction and flexion/extension) and one in the knee (flexion/extension). The leg is built of a light-weight aerospace-grade aluminium alloy and stainless steel. High resolution encoders and load cells in each joint allow a smooth control of both position and torque. We are currently designing and testing several foot designs with and without adjustable stiffness to soften the impacts at foot touch-down and to store energy from one step to the next.

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Figure 3: Leg Design Evolution: CAD model and picture of HyQ leg prototype (left) and the improved final leg (right)

In the beginning of 2008, we successfully reached the first milestone of the project: The design and construction of a first 2-DOF leg prototype (Fig. 3, left) with an actuated hip and knee joint in the sagittal plane (Semini et al., 2008). Since then, we have extensively used the leg to test its mechanical structure, the hydraulic actuation system and to evaluate various joint level controllers (Semini et al, 2008; Cunha et al, 2009; Focchi et al, 2010). For the experiments the leg was either mounted to a vertical slider or fixed to a work bench. We studied the behavior of the mechanical structure and hydraulics upon leg impact with varying leg weights up to 25kg. Furthermore, we tested the leg during continuous hopping with different frequencies up to 3Hz, since hopping is a simplified form of running (see video).

The experiments proofed that hydraulic actuation is very suitable for highly dynamic legged robots, due to its high power-to-weight ratio, high torque and speed and ability to cope with torque peaks (Semini, 2010).


Future Applications

  • Search and rescue operations
  • Operations in contaminated and dangerous areas
  • Forestry, construction and firefighting application
  • Inspection and exploration tasks
  • Experimental platform for legged robotics research (e.g. legged locomotion, biomechanics, force control, autonomous navigation)

Last Updated on Monday, 07 March 2016 11:26


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