Prototype drone aircraft crawls on land using only its wings


July 26, 2013

The first prototype

The first prototype

Image Gallery (6 images)

Researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL) have developed a remarkable drone aircraft that can also walk on land using only its wings for locomotion. Named DALER, a backronym standing for Deployable Air Land Exploration Robot, the robot is named after creator Ludovic Daler of the EPFL's Laboratory of Intelligent Systems.

Walk may be too strong a term for DALER's territorial comings and goings. It gets about on the ground by rotating its wings as whegs (or wheels-cum-legs) in a rather endearing gait reminiscent of sea turtles on the beach. In fact, DALER is capable of more different gaits, depending on whether the whegs rotate parallel to each other or not.

Though DALER is capable of traversing different types of terrain, its maximum speed is 0.2 m/s (0.4 mph). It can turn at a rate of 25º per second by rotating its wings in opposite directions.

The advantage of the system is that land-based travel is achieved without adding weight (in the form of additional legs, for example) that could compromise the flight capabilities of the robot.

DALER is deployed with a frisbee-style throw. In flight the wings lock into place to keep the airframe good and rigid. It appears to be a nimble little flyer, powered by a single propeller.

You can see the first prototype of DALER in action in the video below. D'awwwww.

Source: EPFL

About the Author
James Holloway James lives in East London where he punctuates endless tea drinking with freelance writing and meteorological angst. Unlocking Every Extend Extra Extreme’s “Master of Extreme” achievement was the fourth proudest moment of his life. All articles by James Holloway

Cool idea, but now they need a mechanism for remote launching - a method of getting it onto it's tail (with it's elevons up, therefore it stable, sitting on it's tail) and allowing it to take off.

From my personal experience though, vertical launches require a bit of vertical space (approx. 3m) to allow the pilot to regain rotary control (the plane will obviously be spinning like a dysfunctional helicopter from it's engine's torque).

Joshua Smallwood

They need to make it so it can lift off from the ground. Im sure it could be done.

Nathan Jeffree

Exactly my thought. Once landed-how can it get airborn again? Another question-what's the purpose of it to crawl when it can fly? Anyways, can it climb up a tree, building, or other structure to jump off and get airborn? Or could the single prop rotate and be a VTOL for a period of time (although that may negate the reason for land travel) anyways, great creativity! David


Great prop for a sci-fi movie.


It seems to me that there's not much use in walking if it can fly. I guess because it can't hover, walking allows access to more places. A quadracopter is much more versatile although slower in the air.

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