Drones

Vampire bat-inspired drone can fly and crawl

Vampire bat-inspired drone can...
The DALER prototype drone
The DALER prototype drone
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Researchers have created a prototype drone aircraft that is also able to walk on the ground (Photo: EFPL)
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Researchers have created a prototype drone aircraft that is also able to walk on the ground (Photo: EFPL)
The DALER prototype drone uses adaptive morphology to alter its wing size and shape (Photo:EPFL)
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The DALER prototype drone uses adaptive morphology to alter its wing size and shape (Photo:EPFL)
The DALER prototype drone
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The DALER prototype drone
The EPFL team believes that the versatility of a walking and flying drone would be of great assistance in helping to locate survivors in dangerous or unstable areas after a natural disaster
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The EPFL team believes that the versatility of a walking and flying drone would be of great assistance in helping to locate survivors in dangerous or unstable areas after a natural disaster
The DALER prototype drone
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The DALER prototype drone
Researchers have created a prototype drone aircraft that is also able to walk on the ground
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Researchers have created a prototype drone aircraft that is also able to walk on the ground
The DALER prototype drone uses adaptive morphology to alter its wing size and shape
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The DALER prototype drone uses adaptive morphology to alter its wing size and shape
The DALER drone was actually inspired by the vampire bat that uses the tips of its wings like legs when moving around on the ground
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The DALER drone was actually inspired by the vampire bat that uses the tips of its wings like legs when moving around on the ground
View gallery - 8 images

Robot drones that can both fly and move about on land would vastly improve their usefulness by increasing the areas in which they could operate. Adding wheels of sufficient size to handle most terrains, however, would adversely increase both the weight and size of such a drone. Researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL), building on their earlier developments, have created a drone that uses wings incorporating movable tips, allowing it to both walk and fly.

The DALER (Deployable Air-Land Exploration Robot) drone was actually inspired by the vampire bat that uses the tips of its wings like legs when moving around on the ground. Similarly, the DALER has wings that can be used as both wings and legs (whegs).

By studying and emulating the behavior of the vampire bat, the team created a wing covered in soft fabric that folds into a smaller space when on the ground and rotates around a hinge attaching the whegs to the body. This deformable and retractable wing morphology solves the issue in producing a drone capable of ambulation over ground due to the different center of mass requirements needed for flying and walking.

The DALER prototype drone uses adaptive morphology to alter its wing size and shape
The DALER prototype drone uses adaptive morphology to alter its wing size and shape

"The robot consists of a flying wing with adaptive morphology that can perform both long distance flight and walking in cluttered environments for local exploration," said Ludovic Daler, lead researcher and Ph.D student at EPFL. "The robotʼs design is inspired by the common vampire bat Desmodus rotundus, which can perform aerial and terrestrial locomotion with limited trade-offs."

To achieve these limited trade-offs, the researchers experimented until they found the ideal distance between the center of mass of the drone and the axis of rotation of the wingerons, in order to improve energy efficiency. As a result, this optimum balance of masses allows the DALER to reach speeds of about 70 km/h (45 mph) in the air and around a 6 cm/s (2.5 in/s) on the ground, with a maximum step distance of approximately 6 cm (2.5 in).

The EPFL team believes that the versatility of a walking and flying drone would be of great assistance in helping to locate survivors in dangerous or unstable areas after a natural disaster. The researchers see DALER remotely deployed to an affected area, where it would fly to an area of damaged buildings or destroyed infrastructure and then land to begin walking around to find victims, thus leaving human rescue teams to concentrate their efforts on moving large amounts of people in open areas.

The researchers also claim that potential future developments of their drone will include possible hover capabilities and the ability to take off autonomously from the ground after a mission and to return to base automatically.

The DALER drone was actually inspired by the vampire bat that uses the tips of its wings like legs when moving around on the ground
The DALER drone was actually inspired by the vampire bat that uses the tips of its wings like legs when moving around on the ground

The DALER is still in the prototype stage, and no announcement has been made as to any future commercial development.

The research was published in the journal Bionspiration and Biomimetics.

The short video below shows the DALER in action.

Source: EPFL

A flying robot that can walk

View gallery - 8 images
1 comment
Donald Vitez
The means of locomotion is less than ideal, given the severe drag the propeller places on the craft as the legs attempt to traverse its terrain by walking. Furthermore, most search and rescue scenarios are in hilly and/or rocky terrain. You wouldn't want to drag that prop over a rock as a nick can easily throw the prop off balance as the drone later attempts to fly. Dragging that prop over rocky terrain could easily snag the craft, possibly breaking the prop thereby rendering flight impossible. Giving the craft the ability to hover negates the need for the craft to traverse its terrain by walking. Multi-copters can already hover more above their terrain. I do however, credit the researchers with the ability of the wing to fold, thus preventing breakage, despite being hit by a hammer. The craft could pull its wings toward the center, reducing surface area during a dog fight with a drone, thus decreasing lift resulting in an evasive diving maneuver. The craft could then extend its wings to gain lift and regain altitude. DARPA understands that multi-copter type drones are better suited to search and rescue missions since they can already hover, they just need better obstacle avoidance systems and a means to remain in the air for longer duration. D Vitez, Inventor Robo-Washer