01/08/2012 05:10 BST | Updated 30/09/2012 06:12 BST

Robots With Tails Can Right Themselves In Mid-Air (VIDEO)

Add landing on your feet after every fall to the things robots can do - which we can't.

A team at the University of Pennsylvania, in a study highlighted by Wired UK, has found a way to make robots land on their feet by giving them a tail.

After noting that animals including geckos use their tails to help right themselves during and after falls, the team built 'Tailbot', a tiny robot with an active tail that can right itself during a fall.

The researchers then built a much larger, six-legged X-RHex Lite robot, and found it too could right itself in mid-air if it swung its tail in the same way cats do.

The trick was using inertial navigation sensors which detect the direction of a fall and the cliff edge, and rotates the tail to realign the body.

The team tested the larger robot by running it off a cliff - albeit one only 62cm in height. The result was a safe landing - and now the hope is that better tails and be engineered to make robots more durable in awkward environments.

"Tails play a variety of roles in animals, from fat storage to communication," the team said in the paper.

"Perhaps more useful to mobile robotics is their ability to stabilise

dynamic locomotion. By swinging their tails, geckos can self-right in less than a body length after a fall, or reorient through zero net angular momentum manoeuvres".

"Robots at a range of sizes could benefit from a tail for inertial self-righting."