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When engineers want to design robots capable of navigating complex real-world environments, they often turn to the animal kingdom. Such biomimicry has produced bots that run like dogs or cheetahs or hop like birds taking off in flight. But now researchers at the University of California, Santa Barbara, have reached new heights by ignoring the constraints of biological models. Their 30-centimeter-tall jumper can spring more than 30 meters into the air—roughly the elevation of a 10-story building and 100 times its own height.

This gravity-defying performance is several heads and shoulders above the distance any living creature can reach. “The best animal jumper is likely [a squirrel-sized primate called] the galago, which has been measured jumping around 2.3 meters high from a standstill,” says Elliot W. Hawkes, a mechanical engineer at U.C. Santa Barbara and lead author of a study detailing the superjumper project. He adds that the device also stands out in the mechanical field, where combustion has previously launched jumpers to heights of eight meters and compressed gas has driven them to reach 10 meters. “It jumps much higher than most of the rest of the jumping robots in the world do—if not all of them that I’m aware of,” says Sarah Bergbreiter, a mechanical engineer at Carnegie Mellon University, who was not involved in the new study but wrote an accompanying commentary about it.

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