Posts Tagged ‘Walking Wheels’

1960 – Cycloidal Propulsion Omnidirectional Drive – Howard Hansen (American)


CLARK'S experimental cycloidal machine. Two non-drive rear wheels counter torque.
Source: Mechanix Illustrated, April 1963.
A revolution in land vehicles may come from this new invention which can provide perfect maneuverability.
PUT a pencil at the top of a sheet of paper and start making loops—as if you were practicing a capital O, As you make the loops, draw your arm slowly down the page. Note the trail you are leaving—like a spring that's been stretched out, Actually, the curve you are drawing is called a "cycloid" and what you have just done is to trace the path of a new propulsion system that may revolutionize land vehicles,
What we're talking about is a wheeled or castered vehicle that is the ultimate in maneuverability. It can move in any horizontal direction without steering through a turning radius. In addition, it needs no brakes, transmission, axles or steering system, One control stick does the whole job.
Dubbed the Omni-Drive, it was developed by the Clark Equipment Co, Clark's first unit is an experimental battery-powered single-rotor job with two non-drive trailing wheels to counter torque. The production model—probably available next year—will have two rotors so that no torque reacting trail wheels will be necessary.
How does the Omni-Drive work?
The experimental rig consists of an under-carriage (rotor) on which three casters have been mounted 120 degrees apart, When the caster wheels are angled so that they merely revolve in a circle (see diagram at lower right) the Omni-Drive has no horizontal movement, This braking action is accomplished by centering the single control stick.
When the control stick is moved (in any direction desired) the caster wheels turn at an angle to the braking circle. Now, as the undercarriage continues to revolve, the wheels "swing out" and "push back" in cycloidal loops—just as your pencil did, The upper platform (which, of course, doesn't revolve) then moves—as your arm did when you drew the looping trail down the paper,
To visualize better the operation of this unique vehicle, keep in mind that the rotor never stops revolving while the Omni-Drive is in operation, But movement of the upper platform and operator take place only when the wheels are angled so they move outwardly away from the center as they traverse half of their circle, and inwardly toward the center as they traverse the other half of their circle,
Clark's production Omni-Drive—the two-rotor job—will be able to do much more than the experimental single-rotor rig, It will, for instance, be able to turn on its own axis, The single stick will control velocity, direction, thrust, braking and steering. Remember, this is a vehicle in which there is no torque transmission between engine and wheels. The engine—battery, gas, electric or whatever—merely turns the revolving undercarriage. Add to this the fact that this device brakes while the wheels are still turning and you begin to see its unique possibilities.
This amazing vehicle is the brainchild of Michael Chucta and Jerome Susag, Clark engineers, and Cmdr, Howard Hansen, USN, who developed the application of cycloidal propulsion to land vehicles while he was seeking to invent a maneuverable lawn mower!
Clark foresees wide applications of its Omni-Drive in materials handling vehicles. But in addition it is expected to find many uses in gantry cranes, missile handling machines and TV cameras.
—Larry Edwards


CYCLOIDAL curve made by pen on paper—a continuous looping in a straight path.


PROPOSED application in a single-rotor maneuverable machine for towing aircraft.


BRAKING is accomplished when wheels describe perfect circle and vehicle stops.


UNDERSIDE of working model. All linkages are connected to a single control stick.



Source: THE HILLSDALE DAILY NEWS, Monday, January 14, 1963
Vehicle Shows New Type Of Propulsion
DETROIT (AP) — A new type of land propulsion was to be demonstrated and discussed today at the opening of the 1963 convention of the Society of Automotive Engineers.
With it, you can drive a vehicle in any direction — even up and down, like a bird. It conceivably could some day give you an automobile you could edge into a parking place—sideways.
It is called "Cycloidal Land Propulsion" and it grew from a Navy officer's search for a power lawn mower he wouldn't have to haul and tug to mow around 40 trees on a place he'd rented in Falls Church, Va., in 1958.
It needs no brakes or clutch or transmission or axles.
. . .
The inventor is Cmdr. Howard C. Hansen, now commanding officer of the Navy's Patrol Squadron 49, and he told the engineers today how Cycloidal Land Propulsion grew from his desire for a lawn mower that would power itself circularly around those Virginia trees.
Clark Equipment Co. is adopting Hansen's propulsion method to its industrial trucks (the kind that shuttle crates and boxes hither and yon in warehouses and factories.
. . .
Michael Chucta, engineer in the advanced products section of Clark's industrial Truck Division at Battle Creek, says a vehicle utilizing such propulsion "is remarkably simple to manufacture" and foresees its use by various special job vehicles.
It isn't yet ready for your automobile, or vice versa, and may never be. Top speed of a vehicle thus propelled presently is calculated at 10 miles per hour, and it multiplies the bumps.
Cycloidal Land Propulsion utilizes wheels — one to any number, but three currently is considered the most satisfactory alignment. They are mounted (something like casters on a dresser to a circular undercarriage that is whirled around by the vehicle's power plant.
. . .
The wheels bite outward and inward from center at various points on their circular rotation to give a vehicle propulsion.
Steered to run in a true circle they halt the vehicle and act as brakes, since the tires would have to be dragged along if it were moved while the wheels were running in a true circle. It stops itself thus.
In forward movement, the wheels point outwardly as they traverse half the circle, and inwardly, toward the center, as they traverse the other half.
. . .
A Naval aviator, Hansen designed his original cycloidal or omnidirectional vehicle for control with a stick similar to that used in an airplane. The vehicle moves in whatever direction you move the stick, and the further you move the stick the faster it goes in that direction.
A vehicle using only three wheels (or one revolving cycloidal unit) requires a trailing pair of wheels attached to the rear of the vehicle to absorb torque and keep the vehicle from tending to spin in the direction the whirling wheels are spinning.
But Chucta told his fellow engineers that a vehicle using two units, each spinning in opposite directions, needs no other wheels to remain stable and translate (which means move in any direction).
Such a vehicle also can yaw, throw one end around to where the other was, or swing its front or rear to and fro.


Caption: Three men, from left to right, Jerome R. Susag, Michael Chucta, and Commander Howard C. Hansen, most responsible for its development in land vehicles showed how cycloidal propulsion worked at the Society of Automotive Engineers meeting.

Patent Information:










Publication number    US3016966 A
Publication date    16 Jan 1962
Filing date    12 Oct 1960
Inventors     Howard Clair Hansen
Original Assignee     Howard Clair Hansen

Omnidirectional drive system for land vehicles

Self-propelled land vehicles are, of course, well known. Many such vehicles are particularly intended for use as tractors or prime-movers. A very important requirement of tractor or truck vehicles is that they be as maneuverable as possible. It is also important that the application of driving power and the consequent production of tractive effort be as smooth and controlled as possible in order that maximum tractive effort may be available with an efficient utilization of power. When the tractor vehicle is to be employed for towing large aircraft or is to be used as a forklift truck, maneuverability is of prime importance.

It is a principal object of the present invention to provide an improved land vehicle having a novel omnidirectional drive system which enables the vehicle to be completely maneuverable to move or translate in any direction over the ground from a standing start.

It is another very important object of the present invention to provide a land vehicle having a novel drive system enabling solely by means of direct mechanical linkage the application of power and the production of tractive effort to be continuously variable from minimum to maximum limits of mechanical advantage.

Another object of this invention is to provide a land vehicle which may be supported on many wheels in order to achieve high load-bearing capacity and great tractive capability but in which great simplicity of construction is achieved in a novel drive system in which all wheels transmit tractive propelling power yet are free-running and un-powered in the conventional sense.

Another important object of the invention is to provide an improved land vehicle whose orientation, direction of travel, and power and speed may be either simultaneously or independently controllable by manipulation of a single control column or level.

Yet another important object of the invention is to provide a land vehicle that is completely maneuverable and controllable by the use of a single steering and power control column movable from a central position to any intended direction of movement of the vehicle and wherein the degree of movement of the control column from the central position in the intended direction controls the speed and the mechanical advantage of the tractive effort of the vehicle to increase the speed as the column is moved further.

Another object of this invention is to provide a land vehicle having a novel drive system the control lever of which may be manipulated with ease without necessity of aid from hydraulic power steering systems such as are frequently employed in conventional vehicles for the purpose of overcoming heavy control pressures.

Still another object of this invention is to provide an improved land vehicle that is completely maneuverable and highly controllable to be particularly well suited for use as an air port tractor or as a forklift truck or the like.

Yet another highly significant object of this invention is to provide a land vehicle which has no need for friction brakes in that the novel drive system of the invention inherently provides complete braking control over the vehicle.

In accordance with the invention, a vehicle main frame supporting the power source, drivers seat and controls 1s itself supported on at least one subframe that is rotatable beneath the main frame. One or more wheels supporting the vehicle are mounted on the periphery of the subframe. The power source may be connected to rotate the subframe and so long as the plane of rotation of each of the subframe wheels is maintained in tangential alignment with the rotation of the subframe, that is, so long as the axes of the wheel axles are radial with respect to the center of rotation of the subframe, the wheels will roll in a circular path on the ground and the subframe and the main frame will not translate in relation to the ground. The subframe wheels rotate on short shafts and are provided with kingpins and steering arms which are connected to a single control lever or column attached to the main frame of the vehicle. The control column is universally mounted and may be tilted in any direction and, so long as the control column bears a prependicular relationship to the plane of rotation of the subframe, the wheels are constrained to roll in a circular path on the ground as described above. When the control column is tilted in any direction away from the above-described perpendicular relationship, suitable linkage connecting the control column to the steering arms of the subframe wheesl causes the rotation of the subframe to vary the steering angles of the subframe Wheels; in sinusoidal fashion, thereby causing the subframe and the main frame to translate with respect to the ground. The interconnecting linkage is such as to cause the period of the sinusoidal variation of the steering angle of each wheel to be equal to the period of one revolution of the subframe, and such as to cause the phase-relationship between the rotation of the subframe and the steering angle variations to be determined by the direction in which the control column is tilted, and such as to cause the magnitude of the steering angle variations to be determined by the degree to which the control column is tilted. The arrangement is such, therefore, that the direction of movement of the vehicle is determined by the direction in which the control column is tilted, while the speed of the vehicle movement and, inversely, the mechanical advantage of the tractive effort are determined by the degree to which the control column is tilted. Thus complete maneuverability and controllability of the land vehicle are obtained with the use of a single control column. One or more trailing wheels may be fixed to the vehicle main frame to establish a heading for the main frame and to prevent contrarotation of the vehicle main frame, or a second subframe may be utilized to provide a means for controlling the heading of the main frame of the vehicle relative to the direction of movement of the vehicle over the ground.

Similar Drives used in Robotics:

Trochoid Drive by Osaka University – See Patent US8757316.

Publication date    24 Jun 2014
Filing date    7 Jun 2011

See other early Walking Wheels at the bottom here.
See other early Mobile Robots here.

1957 – Walking Pram – (Swedish)

Metal feet on Swedish carriage enables it to "walk" up or down stairs. The rocking rhythm on flat surface puts baby to sleep.

Source: Mechanics Illustrated May 1957.

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1900 – Pedrail Walking Wheel – Bramah J. Diplock (British)

See full patent details here.

Patent number: 658004

Filing date: Feb 7, 1900

Issue date: Sep 18, 1900

Further patent improvements include US747387, US787500, and US979447.

Source: Popular Science September 1933

Some images located here.

The Pedrail wheel

Text from Wikipedia.


A pedrail wheel climbing stairs, February 7, 1904 The New York Times.

The pedrail wheel is a type of wheel developed in the early 20th century for all-terrain locomotion. It was used in agricultural machinery and was considered as a possible technique for the development of the tank in World War I, but was ultimately replaced by the more robust continuous track mechanism.

According to the 1913 Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary, a pedrail is:

"A device intended to replace the wheel of a self-propelled vehicle for use on rough roads and to approximate to the smoothness in running of a wheel on a metal track. The tread consists of a number of rubber shod feet which are connected by ball-and-socket joints to the ends of sliding spokes. Each spoke has attached to it a small roller which in its turn runs under a short pivoted rail controlled by a powerful set of springs. This arrangement permits the feet to accommodate themselves to obstacles even such as steps or stairs."


The pedrail wheel was invented in 1900 by the Londoner Bramah Joseph Diplock. It consists in the adjunction of feet (Latin radical "ped") to the rail of a wheel, in order to improve traction and facilitate movement in uneven or muddy terrain. Sophisticated pedrail wheels were designed, with individual suspension for each foot, which would facilitate the contact with uneven terrain.

Bramah Joseph Diplock also invented the pedrail locomotive which was featured in the 7 February 1904 New York Times.


1904 illustration of H.G. Wells' December 1903 The Land Ironclads, showing huge ironclad land vessels, equipped with pedrail wheels.

H. G. Wells, in his short story The Land Ironclads, published in The Strand Magazine in December 1903, described the use of large, armoured cross-country vehicles, armed with cannon and machine guns, and equipped with pedrail wheels, to break through a system of fortified trenches, disrupting the defence and clearing the way for an infantry advance:

"They were essentially long, narrow and very strong steel frameworks carrying the engines, and borne upon eight pairs of big pedrail wheels, each about ten feet in diameter, each a driving wheel and set upon long axles free to swivel round a common axis. This arrangement gave them the maximum of adaptability to the contours of the ground. They crawled level along the ground with one foot high upon a hillock and another deep in a depression, and they could hold themselves erect and steady sideways upon even a steep hillside."

In War and the Future, H.G. Wells acknowledged Mr. Diplock's pedrail as the origin for his idea of an all-terrain armoured vehicle:

"The idea was suggested to me by the contrivances of a certain Mr. Diplock, whose "ped-rail" notion, the notion of a wheel that was something more than a wheel, a wheel that would take locomotives up hill-sides and across ploughed fields, was public property nearly twenty years ago"

Diplock later extended his idea to a continuous track.

Patent number: 1096893 see full details here.

Filing date: Jul 1, 1912

Issue date: May 19, 1914

In World War II, the Germans deployed a vehicle that had Pedrail-type wheels, called the VsKfz 617 Minenräumer (minesweeper).

A Plastic model kit by RPM.

See other Walking Wheels at the bottom of the Walking Machines page.

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1890 – Walking Wheel – Rescue B. Page (American)


Patent number: 442780

Filing date: May 29, 1890

Issue date: Dec 16, 1890

See full patent here.

Fresno Morning Republican 18 Oct 1889 p3

R. B. Page's Legs

They Will Carry the Heaviest Load With Ease


A Fresno Man's Invention of a Remarkable Wagon That Walks Instead of Rolling.

R. B. Page is working upon an invention that if successful will go far towards dispensing with horses and other draft animals on steep mountain roads and on sandy plains.

It may be called a walking machine. It is operated by a steam engine, and is practically a wagon without wheels. It has four legs and four feet, all of iron, and in walking and hauling its load it places its toes first upon the ground then upon its heels. These four legs work upon a pivot, and this pivot is always the same distance from the ground like the hub of a wheel. It resembles a four-spoked wheel without a rim, but its inventor claims for it that it can do work that a wheel could not.

Fresno Morning Republican 27 Jan 1891 p3



A Veritable Steam Walker Makes its Way Over Soft Ground and Solves the Traction Problem.

The new traction engine supplied with the wheel patented by R. B. Page of this city has been in successful operation in soft sandy soil near the eastern extremity of N street. It was pulling three gang plows of five and four plows each, and taking in over ten feet of ground as it went.  The three plows together were supposed to be sufficient for twenty-six horses, but the fourteen horse power engine seemed to do the work easily.

The plows were not arranged well and there was no facility for fastening them as they should be, in fact, the experiment was made only for the purpose of testing the patent wheels. These wheels are unlike anything of the kind ever before shown and consist of a sort of combination hub, provided with a series of  ears arranged in four pairs, each pair is connected with shoe which forms the outer surface of the wheel. A rod or bar of iron connects one end of the shoe with one of the pair of ears, and a second bar connects the other end of the shoe with the other ear of the pair. These rods extend over the shoe in opposite directions.

The shoes are about four and a half feet long, and from twelve to twenty inches in width. Each of the bars connecting the shoes to the hub are pivotaly arranged at each end, and when the shoe drops upon the ground it remains stationary while the movement is continued on the pivoted bearings of the bars until the time comes for the shoe to lift. Each shoe hits the other as it drops, and more than one whole shoe is on the ground all of the time. A series of springs prevent the shoe from falling too far or lifting too late. 

The advantages claimed for the wheel are that with so much surface on the ground, between four and a half and five square feet, the engine will not sink into the soft ground, and cannot possibly slip.

In its trial trip around and over the soft ground on last Friday and Saturday the engine and the wheels proved itself to be all that he claimed for it, and it walked over plowed land, muddy land, soft land and land strewn with bricks and railroad ties as easily as the other kind of wheel would move over a hard road. The patentee, R. B. Page, and  his partner, G. P. Gunter, feel that the wheel is a success, and solves the problem of traction engine work in soft  ground. Another exhibition will be given at the same place tomorrow afternoon.

See other Walking Wheels at the bottom of the Walking Machines page.

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1950 – Elliptical Walking Wheels – John Kopczynski (American)


Truck Walks on Wheels
ADMIRAL Richard E. Byrd's transport troubles in the Antarctic ten years ago started John F. Kopczynski, a student engineer, thinking: "Why can't wheels walk?"
Conventional wheels merely spun and bogged down helplessly in the deep snow. Walking wheels could pull like the tracks on a tractor without the great weight, awkwardness or slowness of such gear. The fact that nobody had ever come up with a basic improvement on the wheel since the invention first rolled out of the Stone Age, did not keep young Kopczynski from plugging away at his idea for a walking wheel.

After ten years of experiments, Kopczynski now bead of the Pivot Punch and Die Corporation at North Tonawanda. N. Y., this spring rigged up a working model and finally showed that wheels can walk.

MI's artist Frank Tinsley has carried Kopczynski's walking [Continued on page 143]

[Continued from page 57]
idea a step farther by picturing on page 57 a design for a truck that walks on wheels.
That ambulating vehicle is the answer to the Antarctic problem that stalled Admiral Byrd in the cold. Note how easily the truck mushes along through the deepest snow—no clogging tracks, no frantic spinning.
Smooth riding on those big, egg-shaped rear wheels looks as tough as roller-skating on a railroad bed. The egg wheels on each side of the track, though, are mounted on the ends of a rocker arm and chain-geared together so that when one wheel flips up on its pointed  end, the other flops flat on its side. The pair of wheels on the opposite rocker arm are set up in reverse on a standard truck axle that served as the pivot for both rockers.
As the wheels flip-flop up and down, the rocker arms seesaw sharply but the trucks supporting axle moves forward on an even keel. Actually this truck rides twice as moothly as a round-wheeled vehicle. For when a walking wheel steps up on a foot-high bump, the axle rises only six inches, since its halfway between the ends of each rocker.
Unlike round wheels, the egg-shaped rollers don't spin themselves into a rut. The pointed ends dig into soft terrain and help provide double the pulling power of conventional wheels. In a recent test, Kopczynski buried his "walk wheels" out of sight in a pile of dirt When he switched on the power for the model's electric motor, the wheels started "walking" and quickly pulled away into the open.
The new wheels equal the track-laying gear-of tanks and tractors in pulling and supporting heavy weight on soft surfaces. However, they are much lighter, faster, easier to handle and cheaper to manufacture and service that the crawlers. Then, too, a track layer rips up good roads with its cleats as it plods awkwardly over the hard pavement. When Kopczynski tried out his one-fourth-scale model in a small vehicle with round front wheel the soft-tired walker ran as smoothly at 2 mph as a new Rolls-Royce.
Kopczynski's odd wheel is a natural for tractors, farm and road equipment, and heavy duty trucks that must leave the paved road With walk wheels, combat cars, gun carrier and other military vehicles can speed swiftly over open roads, then march across country through mud, snow or rough terrain with no worries about getting stuck in No Man's Land For thousands of years we've been rolling along on the same old round wheel. Young John Kopczynski, though, finally made that wheel take a walk—and proved he was just the man to put the old rounder in better shape.

Source: Unusual Locomotives.

M7-Alice-Chalmers with Elliptical Wheels. Source: See here.

Fred W. Crismon’s “U.S. Military Wheeled Vehicles,” as I have so many times before, and Crismon came through again:

This peculiar machine, seen here from the right rear, incorporated one of the strangest concepts ever tried on a wheeled vehicle. The idea was that if the ground pressure could be changed regularly as the wheel turns, and would do so in relation to the other wheels on the same and opposite side, increased traction would result. Four tires and wheels were specially built which were ellipsoidal in circumference, and they were mounted offset at 90 degrees on each side, as well as being offset right side to left side. A front axle with normal tires was used for steering.

This top view of the ellipsoidal-wheeled experimental vehicle shows the unusual configuration. Suspension was of a fabricated walking beam type, and chains drove the four rear wheels. The outer diameter of the inflated tire was approximately three inches greater across the widest section than across the narrowest. A T26E4 tracked snow tractor (Allis-Chalmer) was modified in 1946 to test the concept. It was a dismal failure in that it not only failed to provide better mobility, but operation over any but the softest soils pitched the operator around unmercifully. But the Army will try anything once.

Patent number: 2711221
Filing date: Jul 5, 1950
Issue date: Jun 21, 1955
See full patent details here.

See all Walking Wheels and Walking Machines listed here.

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