A Swiss robotics researcher has created a flying robot that can perch on walls or trees.
The goal is to create robots that can travel in swarms over rough terrain to come to the aide of catastrophe victims. When equipped with different sensors and small cameras, they could be deployed in devastated areas to transmit essential information back to rescue command centers.
The robot attaches to almost any type of surface - even concrete walls - using sharp prongs, and then then detaches on command.
"We are not blindly imitating nature, but using the same principles to possibly improve on it," says Mirko Kovac of the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL) "Simple behavioral laws such as jumping, flying and perching lead to complex control over movement without the need for high computational power."
The ability to perch saves valuable energy by allowing the robot to rest as insects or birds do. Previous perching mechanisms have required a complicated swooping maneuver to decrease momentum and land on legs, often without the to detach.
The EPFL mechanism avoids this problem by using two spring-loaded arms fitted with pins that dig into the surface. The snapping of the arms creates a forward momentum, allowing the glider to decelerate gently. A remotely controlled mini-motor then detracts the pins and allows the robot to continue on its way.
The perching mechanism can be easily adapted to other robots, says Kovak.