Public Release: 

Bio-inspired robot perches, resumes flight

American Association for the Advancement of Science

Researchers have designed a flying robot that can perch on a wide range of surfaces, a new study reports. The work provides yet another example of how engineering can learn from nature to build the next generation of robots. Aerial robots can serve many valuable purposes, such as surveying a site after a natural disaster or detecting hazardous chemicals, but the act of flight is highly energy-intensive. Perching on a surface, while carrying out a mission, provides a means to dramatically reduce energy costs and increase mission durations. While there are a number of different options for creating a perching robot, not all translate well for small-scale robots. For example, applying a chemical adhesive to help a robot attach to a surface may facilitate an initial landing but can be problematic when the light-weight robot needs to detach from its perch and resume flight. Here, Moritz Alexander Graule and colleagues created a bio-inspired robot that perches using electrostatic forces. On the top of the small, flying robot, they attached an electrostatic landing patch that evenly distributes a static electric charge. The patch is made of foam to help dampen the impact of landing, so that the robot does not bounce off of its perching target. Inspired by the visual technique that honeybees use to land, the team developed a system of motion-tracking cameras that help the robot align with its target. Through a series of videos, the team demonstrates the robot's ability to perch on a variety of surfaces -- including glass, wood, and even a natural leaf - before resuming flight. A Perspective by Mirko Kovac provides more context, delving further into other perching options.

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