Research ArticleBIOMIMETICS

Forceful manipulation with micro air vehicles

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Science Robotics  24 Oct 2018:
Vol. 3, Issue 23, eaau6903
DOI: 10.1126/scirobotics.aau6903


Micro air vehicles (MAVs) are finding use across an expanding range of applications. However, when interacting with the environment, they are limited by the maximum thrust they can produce. Here, we describe FlyCroTugs, a class of robots that adds to the mobility of MAVs the capability of forceful tugging up to 40 times their mass while adhering to a surface. This class of MAVs, which finds inspiration in the prey transportation strategy of wasps, exploits controllable adhesion or microspines to firmly adhere to the ground and then uses a winch to pull heavy objects. The combination of flight and adhesion for tugging creates a class of 100-gram multimodal MAVs that can rapidly traverse cluttered three-dimensional terrain and exert forces that affect human-scale environments. We discuss the energetics and scalability of this approach and demonstrate it for lifting a sensor into a partially collapsed building. We also demonstrate a team of two FlyCroTugs equipped with specialized end effectors for rotating a lever handle and opening a heavy door.

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