Science

This drone clings to trees like a bird – sciences et Avenir

It is a small drone with four propellers which is the most common. Except perhaps for its two flexible legs that end in raptor claws. In fact, the machine has been adapted by two researchers in robotics and mechanical engineering from Stanford University (United States) and the University of Groningen (Netherlands). Appears on the cover of Science Robotics magazine in December 2021.

Technology inspired by two species

Thus, the drone is able to literally perch in a tree instead of stabilizing while hovering and drawing power from its battery. A particularly useful function for reconnaissance missions, in disaster areas for example, or to observe a natural environment, wildlife, etc.

The researchers were directly inspired by two birds with different greenhouse configurations: the toui, a small parrot from South America, and the peregrine falcon. The first has two fingers in the front and two in the back, the second three in the front and one in the back, but tests have shown that both approaches are equally effective.

This mechanism was made of plastic by 3D printing. Motors, springs and Spectra synthetic fiber are used to generate movements imitating the action of muscles and tendons. Everything is arranged under the drone. This same mechanism is used both for taking off the drone and when it is perched.

The impact of landing is absorbed

The greenhouse closes in 20 milliseconds. A speed that allows, as in nature, to absorb the impact of landing on the branch. A rough coating on the inside of greenhouses also ensures adhesion to moss, for example by covering the branch of a tree. After which, an accelerometer placed on the right leg sends the data to an algorithm that will calculate the position of the drone so that it is balanced.

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