Home Bots & Brains Robot Insect Achieves Seamless Transition Between Flying and Climbing

Robot Insect Achieves Seamless Transition Between Flying and Climbing

by Pieter Werner

A breakthrough in the field of robotics has been achieved with the development of a bionic robot insect that can flawlessly mimic the complex locomotion tasks found in nature by flying, landing on vertical surfaces, and climbing them, as unveiled by a team at Nanjing University of Aeronautics & Astronautics (NUAA).

This hybrid-powered robot insect, designed to mirror the movements and adaptability of flying insects, has the ability to perform transitional movements such as landing on various vertical surfaces and taking off again. Such movement has been challenging to replicate in robotics until now, but the NUAA team’s research has managed to overcome this hurdle.

A Biomimetic Marvel

The innovative robot, which was published in a study on May 10 in Research, utilizes a flapping/rotor hybrid power layout to efficiently control flight in the air, and to attach and climb vertical walls. This combination imitates the agile control of an insect’s flapping wings and body posture. The transition between flying and climbing is achieved through the synergistic use of aerodynamic negative pressure adsorption of the rotor power and a climbing mechanism with bionic adhesion performance.

The newly developed robot has been tested on a variety of surfaces including glass, wood, marble, tree bark, and more, effectively demonstrating its ability to mimic the natural behavior of insects.

Pioneering Technology for Practical Application

Aihong Ji, who led the research, sees practical applications for this technology, stating that the cross-domain movement ability of this robot can expand the potential uses beyond that of single-domain robots. It can also help understand the intricate takeoff and landing behaviors of insects, which has broader implications in the fields of biology and engineering.

According to Ji, the new robot’s flapping/rotor hybrid power design enables sufficient control force and torque, allowing for independent and non-interfering control over three axes. Several pretests have been conducted to optimize the flying-climbing transition scheme, resulting in the robot performing continuous and complete air–wall–air transitions in just over 6 seconds.

Future Prospects and Challenges

The success of the aerial-wall robot opens up numerous opportunities for advanced robotics applications, such as surveillance, exploration in complex environments, or medical assistance.

The team is also looking forward to enhancing the robot with additional features like microscopic hooks and claws, navigation, sensing, autonomous control, and long-distance communication. They also envision using machine learning methods to optimize the power allocation during flying-climbing transitions or to autonomously detect, identify, and track specific targets.

However, challenges remain in refining the movement mode to perfectly mimic the natural landing and taking off of insects and improving the overall performance of amphibious robot insects. Additionally, the commercial feasibility and potential applications of this groundbreaking technology require further exploration and development.

Photo: research team

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