New drone can perch and rest like a bat to conserve battery

Researchers at Yale University have developed a UAV which uses nature-inspired robotic talons to “perch and rest” in places that would normally be inaccessible.

The group, led by Kaiyu Hang, were looking to make drones that fly in a more energy efficient manner. They observed how birds and bats use structures to conserve their energy when taking off and landing. Mimicking the shapes of bat’s feet, the researchers affixed a modular framework to the bottom of a DJI F450, that enables it to attach to ledges or even hang upside down.

The Yale research group looked to the way birds and bats attach themselves to objects in order to develop a frame that lets drones land in previously inaccessible areas

Different types of attachments can be added or taken away from the bottom of the drone to prepare it for landing on different types of surfaces such as rooftop ledges or vertical poles.

An example of the different surfaces the drone was able to land on using the modular attachment

What are the practical applications of this technology?

Kaiyu Hang (the inventor), told Inverse.com that “[Resting} has enabled the unmanned autonomous vehicle to make use of a much larger range of common structures in the environment, and made it possible for it to more flexibly interact with the environment to achieve many more different tasks.”

With the modular attachments, drones may be able to rest on your balcony rail while delivering a package or hang from a flag pole to capture video rather than hovering and using the UAVs limited battery power.

As things currently stand, Hang’s perching drone still needs human assistance to rest in certain spots. Future iterations of the UAV will likely have AI that helps the drone identify appropriate places for it to land. Additionally, Hang would like his drone’s “feet” to be able to compensate for wind gusts that may otherwise interfere with the drone safely securing itself to a perch. Companies such as Amazon who are strongly interested in drone deliveries will be watching the development of the perching drone with great interest.

Nature is a frequent source of inspiration for inventors and engineers. A few months back we brought you a story about researchers in Sweden who were examining the way bats fly and whether they could incorporate those lessons into making better drones. They wanted to better understand how bats were able to change direction rapidly in midair. Armed with a better understanding of the mechanism of bat flight, future engineers could create drones that move faster and with less wind resistance through the air.

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