Did FRC invent the swerve drive/ powered caster?

I somewhere on cd that the first swerve drive in FRC was in 1998 by team 47, Chief Delphi. The earliest patent I found for what is essentially the swerve drive we know is also from 1998. Does anyone else have any more information on who invented swerve or where it originated from?

Here is the patent I found: US6491127B1 - Powered caster wheel module for use on omnidirectional drive systems - Google Patents

The term “Swerve Drive” seems to have been invented by FRC. (Just based on the fact that there is an Autodesk article that sites FRC as the origin.)


Interesting that someone seems to have invented the bevel-beside-wheel swerve in 1998, when it wasn’t introduced into FRC until 2015 IIRC


The exact timing was the 2014 off-season. 2015 was the first time it saw the field, if that’s what you meant.

Those drawings do like more like modern modules than any other type I’ve seen, which is interesting.


I have no source for team 47 having used it in 1998 and I am also not very familiar for what it looked like so maybe it’s not what we would consider a swerve now.

The drawing definitely looks like what would be considered a swerve module by today’s standards. It’s actually ahead of its time, much more closely resembling modern modules than those circa the 2000s or even early 2010s.

Engineering patent drawings are for explanation; don’t mistake them for blueprints. If this was made by 47; it’s very likely it does not represent their module’s design.

That’s why I am confused. Those modules look fairly modern and I have no idea what super early swerve modules looked like in FRC. I was/am assuming they looked similar to what we have today.

See my ninja edit. Patent drawings don’t have to be limited by things like manufacturing constraints, and often look very different from actual working designs.


I see now. That hadn’t crossed my mind. I’m still intrigued about how team 47 came up with the idea and developed their solution (assuming they did.) Without modern technologies like 3d printing or CNC machining it seems extremely difficult.

Searching on CD, i managed to find a few photos of what look to be swerve from 47 in 2001(?).

There was also this one, but im unsure of what it goes to (looks wildly different from the other photos, but labeled as same year.)


That’s from the first CD overhaul, which left some things very confusing to read.

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That was my assumption too, but TBA also has it listed as the 2001 2000 bot looking at photos. I didnt bother going through past games to check though, and im not well versed in games pre-2008.

The only instance of “swerve” I’m aware of outside of FRC is in SPMTs. You can see those in action in this video: https://youtu.be/oaCoL_WlsOE

I’m not sure how similar the actual design is. Per Wikipedia, this technology was developed in the 70s and 80s, which would make it older than FIRST itself.

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They seem fairly similar so I would probably guess 47 took inspiration from them or they came up with it independently.

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Beat me to it

Swerve is used outside FRC.

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Those are all fairly modern compared to FRC though. It was more of a question of where was it’s origin.


@Joe_Johnson is probably the best one to answer that.

You know that NASA just took the swerve design from 148 :joy::joy::joy:. That’s why they sponsor all of those teams, grab good ideas and put them on lunar explorers etc. Blue Origin and SpaceX are gonna regret the day FRC starts doing rocketry.

And so is First :joy::joy::joy:. Nvm some foam balls coming out of the field of play, you’ll need missile defense systems to protect spectators and officials


You know that NASA just took the swerve design from 148

I think you mean 118. In fact, I think I even read somewhere that 118 assisted with the NASA project.

Oh, you’re right, my mistake. I was under the impression 148 was also sponsored by NASA but their sponsor page says otherwise… I was just poking fun anyways, I’ve met 118 just thought 148 did swerve before 118 did but did zero research on it :wink: