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Roboticists at the Italian Institute of Technology (IIT) strapped a fully functioning jetpack onto their humanoid robot, called iRonCub, a report from IEEE Spectrum reveals.

While several outlets have unsurprisingly drawn comparisons to Iron Man, the truth looks far scarier, and like something out of an as-yet unmade horror movie. 

Explosive test flights

In the same configuration as Gravity Industries’ famous Iron Man-like jetpack design, the iRonCub robot was equipped with four jet engines, giving it the ability to fly. Tests are ongoing, but let’s just say, the team at IIT have struggled at times to keep their robot from igniting, and even exploding, due to the exhaust from the engines.

The latest results, however, will be published in the January issue of IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters. They indicate that one of the team’s latest additions, a pair of fancy, silver-colored flame-proof pants, may have done the trick, and at least the machine isn’t going to self-combust before reaching any type of flight altitude. Have a look at some of the footage of the team’s latest tests in the video below.

Flying robots could help enable human flight

The iRonCub isn’t the only humanoid robot developed for flight in recent months. In October, scientists from Caltech revealed footage of their bipedal robot flying, balancing on a tightrope, and skateboarding thanks to two drone rotors.

You might be asking yourself what possible use a flying humanoid robot might have over a delivery drone, for example. As Daniele Pucci, head of the Artificial and Mechanical Intelligence lab at IIT, told IEEE Spectrum“I truly believe that aerial humanoid robotics can be used as a test-bed for actuated flying exoskeletons for human beings. The recent success story of Richard Browning shows the engineering feasibility of these futuristic actuated exoskeletons. However, the journey in front of us is still long, and we can use flying humanoid robots to boost this journey and avoid lots of tests on humans.”

So one of the main reasons is seemingly to help develop the jetpacks of the future with a humanoid robot that resembles a moving crash dummy. Pucci also states that the flying iRonCub can be used to develop a general control framework for flying humanoid robots. The next step now, for Pucci and his team, is to conduct a controlled flight of the iRonCub. Let’s just hope those flame-proof pants do their job.

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