Credit: Raphael Zufferey
Researchers at EPFL and the University of Seville have developed a method that allows a flapping-wing robot to land autonomously on a horizontal perch using a claw-like mechanism. The innovation could significantly expand the scope of robot-assisted tasks.
A bird landing on a branch makes the maneuver look like the easiest thing in the world, but in fact, the act of perching involves an extremely delicate balance of timing, high-impact forces, speed, and precision. It’s a move so complex that no flapping-wing robot (ornithopter) has been able to master it, until now.
Raphael Zufferey, a postdoctoral fellow in the Laboratory of Intelligent Systems (LIS) and Biorobotics ab (BioRob) in the School of Engineering, is the first author on a recent Nature Communications paper describing the unique landing gear that makes such perching possible. He built and tested it in collaboration with colleagues at the University of Seville, Spain, where the 700-gram ornithopter itself was developed as part of the European project GRIFFIN.
“This is the first phase of a larger project. Once an ornithopter can master landing autonomously on a tree branch, then it has the potential to carry out specific tasks, such as unobtrusively collecting biological samples or measurements from a tree. Eventually, it could even land on artificial structures, which could open up further areas of application,” Zufferey says.
He adds that the ability to land on a perch could provide a more efficient way for ornithopters – which, like many unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) have limited battery life – to recharge using solar energy, potentially making them ideal for long-range missions.
“This is a big step toward using flapping-wing robots, which as of now can really only do free flights, for manipulation tasks and other real-world applications,” he says.
Maximizing strength and precision; minimizing weight and speed
The engineering problems involved in landing an ornithopter on a perch without any external commands required managing many factors that nature has already so perfectly balanced. The ornithopter had to be able to slow down significantly as it perched, while still maintaining flight. The claw needed to be strong enough to grasp the perch and support the weight of the robot, without being so heavy that it could not be held aloft. “That’s one reason we went with a single claw rather than two,” Zufferey notes. Finally, the robot needed to be able to perceive its environment and the perch in front of it in relation to its own position, speed, and trajectory.
The researchers achieved all this by equipping the ornithopter with a fully on-board computer and navigation system, which was complemented by an external motion-capture system to help it determine its position. The ornithopter’s leg-claw appendage was finely calibrated to compensate for the up-and-down oscillations of flight as it attempted to hone in on and grasp the perch. The claw itself was designed to absorb the robot’s forward momentum upon impact, and to close quickly and firmly to support its weight. Once perched, the robot remains on the perch without energy expenditure.
Even with all these factors to consider, Zufferey and his colleagues succeeded, ultimately building not just one but two claw-footed ornithopters to replicate their perching results.
Looking ahead, Zufferey is already thinking about how their device could be expanded and improved, especially in an outdoor setting.
“At the moment, the flight experiments are carried out indoors, because we need to have a controlled flight zone with precise localization from the motion capture system. In the future, we would like to increase the robot’s autonomy to perform perching and manipulation tasks outdoors in a more unpredictable environment.”
Original Article: Researchers develop winged robot that can land like a bird
More from: École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne | University of Seville
The Latest Updates from Bing News
Go deeper with Bing News on:
- Best robot vacuum deals in March 2023
A robot vacuum can set you back a few hundred dollars. Fortunately, the best robot vacuum deals can help lower the cost of your robotic assistant. Currently, we're seeing some great sales on some ...
- Robots are replacing security guards. Should we give them guns?
However, I'm not so sure these bots can be reliable. Let's see how the robot security experiments are turning into reality. These robot guards are being used mainly in office buildings and have ...
- Flapping PCB Fan Blows A Little Bit
Using the PCB actuator technology he has been working on for the past few years, [Carl Bugeja] built a small electromagnetic flapping fan using a custom flexible PCB. Inspired by expensive ...
- This bumblebee-inspired bot can bounce back after injuring a wing
Bumblebees can hurt their wings and still fly. Researchers want their own aerial robots to do the same. By Andrew Paul | Published Mar 16, 2023 10:00 AM EDT Given their habit of bouncing off their ...
- Resilient Bug Sized Self Healing Robots
Researchers from MIT have developed a bumblebee inspired soft robot that keeps flying even after cutting 20% of its wing tip. It is estimated that a ...
Go deeper with Bing News on:
- Flight Of The Pterothopter: A Jurassic-Inspired Ornithopter
And they are almost mesmerizing to watch when they do it, which is just one reason we love [Hobi Cerdas]’s build of the Pterothopter, a rubber band-powered ornithopter modeled after a pterodactyl.
- Mechanisms: The Lever, It’s Everywhere
I got onto this topic quite by accident. I was making an ornithopter and it was having trouble lifting its wings. For the uninitiated, ornithopters are machines which fly by flapping their wings.
- Why drones should learn from nature
My aunt who lives in the Himalayas, casually mentioned that drones would drop medicines at her home because people in her remote village had no access to m..
- Techwatch: The latest developments from around the world
Engineers from around the world are looking to nature — dolphins, birds and snowflakes — for these innovations. 1. Dolphin ...
- Winged Robot Can Land Like a Bird
The technology—developed by researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL) and the University of Seville—demonstrates a novel achievement for flapping-wing, or ornithopter robots, ...