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Insect-inspired device lets micro air vehicles perch on vertical surfaces

By

June 29, 2010

Mirko Kovac's perching mechanism, mounted on a micro glider

Mirko Kovac's perching mechanism, mounted on a micro glider

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A young robotics engineer has developed a perching mechanism that could be invaluable to the field of Micro Air Vehicles, or MAVs. Mirko Kovac, of Switzerland’s Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL), envisions a system wherein swarms of tiny robotic gliders would be deployed over scenes of disasters, such as forest fires or earthquakes. The gliders would fly straight into the sides of vantage points, such as tall buildings or trees, whereupon they would perch on that surface and transmit data to remote observers via cameras or other sensors. They could even free themselves, to fly on to another location.

The heart of Dr. Kovac’s perching mechanism consists of two sharp prongs mounted on arms at the front of a micro glider, although the 4.6 gram module could be applied to any MAV. When the glider’s projecting nose hits a vertical surface, the arms snap forward and stick the prongs into that surface. The glider is not damaged in the impact, thanks in part to the inertia-dispersing effect of the forward thrust of the arms. The prongs easily penetrate wood, but are also highly effective even on concrete.

The glider can hang on the surface indefinitely, but when it’s time to move on, a tiny remote-controlled motor pulls the arms back and sets the MAV free.

The prongs that stick into vertical surfaces

In the development of the mechanism, Kovac was very much inspired by the perching strategies employed by insects. One of his previous insect-inspired creations was a miniature robot that hops like a grasshopper. He now hopes to combine the two, creating a flying, hopping micro-robot that can perch on walls or trees.

“I am fascinated by the creative process,” says Kovac, “and how it is possible to use the sophistication found in nature to create something completely new.”

The EPFL research was recently published in Journal of Micro-Nano Mechatronics.

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away.   All articles by Ben Coxworth
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1 Comment

Outstanding adoption from Biomimicry.

Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP),India

Anumakonda Jagadeesh
29th June, 2010 @ 05:53 pm PDT
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