Mark Cutkosky, an engineer from Stanford University ( California , USA), and David Lentink, from the University of Groningen ( Netherlands ), have developed a drone with legs inspired by the claws of birds.
The researchers found that birds could perch on any branch, regardless of its size or irregularities . That encouraged them to work on their device. However, its manufacture was not particularly easy.
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” It is not easy to imitate how birds fly and perch,” says William Roderick, a graduate student in the laboratories of both universities. After millions of years of evolution, they make takeoff and landing seem so easy, even amid all the complexity and variability of tree branches found in a forest . “
In Cutkosky’s lab they have been drawing inspiration from animals for years to apply their particularities to robots , while in Lentink’s lab they have spent a lot of time working on aerial robots based on different birds. The union of the experience of both universities has resulted in an article published in Science Robotics .
The study explains that the claws to have called ” Air Gripper stereotypic inspired by nature ” (SNAG are its acronym in English) are added to a drone cuadricóptero. Through this attachment, the robot is able to fly, catch and transport objects and land on different surfaces.
Before creating their clawed drone, the engineers studied different birds. ” What surprised us was that they did the same aerial maneuvers, no matter what surfaces they landed on, ” says Roderick. They let the legs handle the variability and complexity of the surface texture itself . “
This repeated landing by the birds indistinctly from the surface is the reason why the researchers have used the word “stereotyped” , since they tried to imitate this behavior.
SNAG is not inspired by just one species, but is based on different birds. For example, the parrots tries to imitate the way in which it approaches to perch on a surface and, on the other hand, the peregrine falcon tries to simulate its claws.
What is SNAG made of?
SNAG artificial bones are actually a 3D printed structure . In order to develop a skeleton that was stable and similar to that of birds, the engineers had to carry out 20 interactions to perfect it. Instead of muscles and tendons, the claws of the Cutkosky and Lentink teams have motors and fishing line.
The result of this device has been a robot with a strong, high-speed clutch that can be closed in as little as 20 milliseconds. By wrapping itself around a tail, SNAG’s ankles lock and the robot stabilizes .
” Part of the underlying motivation for this work was to create tools that we can use to study the natural world,” says Roderick, whose parents are biologists and is aware of ecosystem maintenance. If we could have a robot that could act like a bird, that could unlock entirely new ways of studying the environment . “