biomimetic

Tiny claws let drones perch like birds and bats

Posted by | artificial intelligence, biomimesis, biomimetic, drones, Gadgets, hardware, robotics, science | No Comments

Drones are useful in countless ways, but that usefulness is often limited by the time they can stay in the air. Shouldn’t drones be able to take a load off too? With these special claws attached, they can perch or hang with ease, conserving battery power and vastly extending their flight time.

The claws, created by a highly multinational team of researchers I’ll list at the end, are inspired by birds and bats. The team noted that many flying animals have specially adapted feet or claws suited to attaching the creature to its favored surface. Sometimes they sit, sometimes they hang, sometimes they just kind of lean on it and don’t have to flap as hard.

As the researchers write:

In all of these cases, some suitably shaped part of the animal’s foot interacts with a structure in the environment and facilitates that less lift needs to be generated or that power flight can be completely suspended. Our goal is to use the same concept, which is commonly referred to as “perching,” for UAVs [unmanned aerial vehicles].

“Perching,” you say? Go on…

We designed a modularized and actuated landing gear framework for rotary-wing UAVs consisting of an actuated gripper module and a set of contact modules that are mounted on the gripper’s fingers.

This modularization substantially increased the range of possible structures that can be exploited for perching and resting as compared with avian-inspired grippers.

Instead of trying to build one complex mechanism, like a pair of articulating feet, the team gave the drones a set of specially shaped 3D-printed static modules and one big gripper.

The drone surveys its surroundings using lidar or some other depth-aware sensor. This lets it characterize surfaces nearby and match those to a library of examples that it knows it can rest on.

Squared-off edges like those on the top right can be rested on as in A, while a pole can be balanced on as in B.

If the drone sees and needs to rest on a pole, it can grab it from above. If it’s a horizontal bar, it can grip it and hang below, flipping up again when necessary. If it’s a ledge, it can use a little cutout to steady itself against the corner, letting it shut off or all its motors. These modules can easily be swapped out or modified depending on the mission.

I have to say the whole thing actually seems to work remarkably well for a prototype. The hard part appears to be the recognition of useful surfaces and the precise positioning required to land on them properly. But it’s useful enough — in professional and military applications especially, one suspects — that it seems likely to be a common feature in a few years.

The paper describing this system was published in the journal Science Robotics. I don’t want to leave anyone out, so it’s by: Kaiyu Hang, Ximin Lyu, Haoran Song, Johannes A. Stork , Aaron M. Dollar, Danica Kragic and Fu Zhang, from Yale, the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, the University of Hong Kong, and the KTH Royal Institute of Technology.

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Festo’s latest bio-inspired creations are a robo-bat and rolling robo-spider

Posted by | biomimetic, festo, Gadgets, hardware, robotics | No Comments

Festo’s flashy biomimetic robots are more or less glorified tech demos, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t cool. The engineering is still something to behold, although these robot critters likely won’t be doing any serious work. Its latest units move in imitation of two unusual animals: a tumbling spider and a flying fox (think big bat).

The BionicWheelBot, when walking, isn’t anything we haven’t seen before: hexapodal locomotion has been achieved by countless roboticists — one recent project even attempted to capture the spontaneity of an insect’s gait.

But its next trick is new, at least if you haven’t watched the Star Wars prequels. It uses the legs on each side to form a wheel and propels itself with the last pair. Useful for getting downhill or blowing in the wind, as some spiders and insects in fact do.

It looks as if it can get going quite fast, and although it seems to me it would be in a fix if knocked over, it had no problem dropping off the end of the table and rolling on in the Festo video.

The other robo-critter is the BionicFlyingFox, modeled on the enormous fruit bats bearing that name. Like all flying creatures there is a great emphasis on lightness and simplicity, allowing this robot (like its distant forebear, Festo’s bird) to flap around realistically and stay aloft for a time.

In imitation of the strong but light and flexible membrane that forms flying mammals’ wings, the Festo bot uses a modified elastane material (sort of a super-Spandex) that’s airtight and won’t crease or rip.

If you’re lucky, you might see one of these majestic robeasts demonstrated at a robotics conference one day.

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Humans sow seeds of destruction by abusing poor robot just trying to walk through a door

Posted by | biomimetic, boston dynamics, Gadgets, robocalypse, robotics, spot mini, TC | No Comments

 You may remember last week that Boston Dynamics’ latest robot has learned to open doors. Seems like at this point you don’t want to anger them. They will find you. Or rather, they’ll find the company’s designated robot abuser and punish him for stopping poor robots from doing what they have been told to do. Soon Spot Mini will not be the one on a leash. Read More

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Robots will touch more tenderly when they wear this sensitive skin

Posted by | biomimetic, Gadgets, robocalypse, robotics, robots, science, TC | No Comments

 Robots increasingly have to interact with ordinary (that is to say, human-focused) objects and environments, and part of that is imitating the extremely delicate and complex human grip. A new type of electronic skin allows a robot to feel not just the pressure from its grip, but whether and in what direction an object is sliding or slipping. Read More

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Bat Bot is the biomimetic flying soft robot we deserve

Posted by | biology, biomimetic, Gadgets, robotics, robots, science, TC | No Comments

bat bot If you’ve ever seen a bat in flight, you know how impressive their aerial acrobatics can be — so impressive that we have yet to successfully imitate it the way we have with locomotion or even bird flight. This impressive new flying robot is the best attempt yet, though it’s still a long way from the “unrivaled agility” of the real thing. Read More

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The Pleurobot robo-salamander crawls and swims like a real amphibian

Posted by | artificial intelligence, biomimesis, biomimetic, EPFL, Gadgets, research, robotics, robots, science, TC, university | No Comments

_X3A9216 The mad roboticists at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne have produced another biomimetic mechanoid — this one based on the lithe locomotion of the salamander. “Pleurobot” imitates the amphibian’s ambulation with its own articulated vertebrae, allowing it to slither along on land or at sea. Read More

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