A Quadrotor Drone Works Like An Eagle
Inspired by an eagle’s hunting ability, a group of researchers from the University of Pennsylvania have designed a Micro Unmanned Aerial vehicle (MAV) that can grab objects on the fly very similar to an eagle snatching a fish from the water’s surface. The drone is a quadrotor, a UAV that flies with four spinning blades, like a helicopter. At first scientists studied how eagles catch their prey and then they attached a 3-D printed claw on a motorized leg to the bottom of a quadrotor. The bird of prey reduces the velocity of its claws in relation to its prey by sweeping its legs back at the point of impact, letting it grasp the target without slowing down. Since the MAV weighs just 500 grams, designers made an arm weighing just 158 grams that attaches to a servo-driven swing to replicate the sweeping motion in their robot and gripper. They also engineered a clever three-fingered claw that can naturally conform to different shapes but clenches and releases with just a single servo. Then these parts were built using a combination of 3D printing and laser-cut ABS and then covered with Dycem (a kind of high-friction rubber that improves the robot‘s grip). The practical applications of a flying claw may range from getting a Frisbee off a roof to picking up and retrieving tools from construction workers at elevation. You can watch the MAV grab a light cylinder (27 g) at up to three meters per second in the following video.