What is it that a bird can achieve that a drone cannot? Rest on a branch after perching on it. The Stereotyped Nature-Inspired Aerial Grasper (SNAG), an experimental landing gear that allows a quadcopter to land on a branch like a bird and then grip onto it, is about to change that. The advantage is that the drone can land in a variety of locations to save energy.
This drone, like a bird, can perch on a branch.
Stanford University’s Mechanical Engineering department created the unique landing gear.
“It’s not easy to mimic how birds fly and perch. After millions of years of evolution, taking off and landing is a breeze for them, even with all the complexity and variability of the tree branches you find in a forest,” said study leader Dr. William Roderick.
The landing tactics were meticulously documented by the research team using high-speed cameras and sensors mounted on special platforms. The scientists progressively got an insight into the physics of landing on branches by monitoring a pair of parrots flying back and forth.
Birds, it turns out, always land in the same way, regardless of where they land. They delegated the difficult tasks to their paws. This accounts for all deviations, from collecting residual kinetic energy to clamping after landing.
“What surprised us was that they performed the same actions over and over, no matter what surface they landed on,” said Dr. Roderick.
Landing gear inspired by nature
The nature-inspired SNAG landing gear, modeled on the legs of a peregrine falcon, was built based on the insights acquired into the working of bird’s feet. The ‘bones’ were 3D printed, while the muscles and tendons were substituted with motors and fishing lines.
As a result, there is a very strong ‘leg’ that can be actuated to close in 20 milliseconds. The ankles of the SNAG lock into place after being wrapped around a branch. When the drone lands, an accelerometer detects it and initiates a balancing mechanism to stabilize it.
Numerous uses, including Search and Rescue and Wildfire monitoring, are conceivable, according to the experts. The advantage is that the drones can land anywhere for a short period of time to preserve energy. The technology can also be utilized in conjunction with non-drone equipment.
Let us know what you think of this latest drone technology in the comments below.
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