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Bird-like autonomous gliding robot can land on a human hand


May 3, 2012

The Urbana-Champaign MAV features articulated wings with movable trailing edge flaps

The Urbana-Champaign MAV features articulated wings with movable trailing edge flaps

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Although winged micro air vehicles (MAVs) are pretty impressive in free flight, one of the skills that has proven difficult for them to master is the bird-like perched landing. Aerospace engineers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, however, have now achieved it – they’ve developed an MAV that is capable of landing on an outstretched human hand.

According to the researchers, a bird’s typical perching maneuver consists of it gliding over to its landing spot, followed by a sudden swoop up – this slows it down and causes it to stall, so it can then drop down onto its perch. This is difficult for autonomous aircraft, as the action takes place very quickly, and requires great precision.

The MAV accomplishes it, however, via articulated wings with movable trailing edge flaps, and a movable horizontal bird-like tail. Controlling these flight surfaces is an onboard microcontroller, which is running custom algorithms.

“We believe we have the first demonstration of autonomous/robotic flight of a bird-like micro aerial vehicle perching on a human hand,” said assistant professor Soon-Jo Chung.

An engineer from Switzerland’s Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL) has previously created an MAV that performs a type of perching, although it does so by flying straight into vertical surfaces and driving in nose-mounted steel prongs.

The U Illinois MAV can be seen in all its perching glory, in the video below.

Source: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign via Engadget

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

That's pretty good autonomous control but it's still a catch by a cooperating perch. But still impressive. They aren't far away from complete autonomous perching.


.... downsize it a bit and the US army will ask it to land on the head of an enemy insurgent, and then inject a heavy sedative. Job done, retrieve insurgent, and a nice hostage to torture for information....


Cool, can you teach it to say "I'm a pretty boy".

Denis Klanac

I'm sure they'll work out deficiencies. All in all it's very impressive.


Here's another idea: Scale the design UP to human-wearable size, find a good stretchable-composite material to make the outer skin, wire the wing & tail actuator controls to an EKG hairnet, and VIOLA- Mind-controlled, super_maneuverable biomimetic gliding/flight pack!

How sweet would that be? Condorman made real!

Galen Sjöström
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