Insect-like flying robots self-recover after crash (w/ Video)

June 14, 2012 by Nancy Owano, weblog

( -- Autonomous flying robots? Yawn. Researchers from the Laboratory of Intelligent Systems at Switzerland’s EPFL wanted to go a step beyond. They are aware of nimble, adept flying robots that do not navigate into obstacles; what if, taking their inspiration from flying insects, they created flying robots that hit obstacles, crash, but get back to flying again? Even flying robots designed in the past to be capable of flight in cramped and cluttered environments left the team hoping to improve on limitations. As they noted, current systems might launch and fly well, but contact with obstacles might prove catastrophic and bring on “mission-ending results.”

Their project has developed into designing autonomous flying robots that when making collision-contact with the environment have an upright mechanism to re-launch and keep flying. Their robots have uprighting mechanisms that allow them to “subsequently take off again after an otherwise mission-ending collision,” says the team.

Their project plans are focused on innovative optic-flow based algorithms resembling those used by insects that can help the control its speed. They are working on smart sensing within the robot's structure to detect the position and force of contact with the environment. The legs ensure it can stand up and return to flight no matter what position it is in. Like insects trying to find a way out of a window, the can’t-be-defeated robot will bounce off obstacles or fly along a wall to reach an opening.

Adam Klaptocz, a doctoral candidate in robots at the EPFL is the lab narrator of a video that shows how the project’s flying robot can survive a crash by picking itself back up and taking flight again. The recovery system consists of legs that kick out to spring the robot upright. “This type of robot could be useful in exploring hard-to-reach or dangerous areas, places with little light, caves, collapsed mines or nuclear power plants,” said Klaptocz. For this to work successfully so that the robot device does not snap or bend, the lab team designed a part-protecting carbon fiber cage. This structure does not add excess weight or drag that would throw off the calibrated control systems and interfere with the center of gravity.

Their research work, “An Active Uprighting Mechanism for Flying Robots,” appears in the journal IEEE Transactions on Robotics.

Their method is demonstrated on a tailsitter flying robot, which is capable of consistently uprighting after falling on its side using a spring-based leg and returning to the air to continue its mission.

Talking about their research goals, they hope overall that they get closer to mimicking the “impressive flying characteristics” seen in insects and “to understand the mechanics and control required to create a truly useful and robust indoor flying robot.”

Explore further: Bird-like robot perches on a human hand (w/ Video)

More information: An Active Uprighting Mechanism for Flying Robots, IEEE Transactions on Robotics, Volume: PP , Issue: 99, Page(s): 1-6, doi:10.1109/TRO.2012.2201309

Flying robots have unique advantages in the exploration of cluttered environments such as caves or collapsed buildings. Current systems, however, have difficulty in dealing with the large amount of obstacles inherent to such environments. Collisions with obstacles generally result in crashes from which the platform can no longer recover. This paper presents a method to design active uprighting mechanisms for protected rotorcraft-type flying robots that allow them to become upright and subsequently take off again after an otherwise mission-ending collision. This method is demonstrated on a tailsitter flying robot, which is capable of consistently uprighting after falling on its side using a spring-based ``leg'' and returning to the air to continue its mission.

Press release

Related Stories

Bird-like robot perches on a human hand (w/ Video)

May 3, 2012

( -- Among the many challenges of designing flying robots is getting them to land gracefully. By taking a cue from birds, a team of engineers has developed a flapping-wing flying robot that can land by perching on ...

Airborne robot swarms are making complex moves (w/ video)

February 2, 2012

( -- The GRASP Lab at the University of Pennsylvania this week released a video that shows their new look in GRASP Lab robotic flying devices. They are now showing flying devices with more complex behavior than ...

Micro helicopters leave the nest

April 24, 2012

Within the framework of the EU project sFly, researchers at ETH Zurich have developed a new type of flying robot that can be navigated using only on-board cameras and a miniature computer. The micro helicopters require neither ...

Building a better robot

March 1, 2012

Today’s robots can vacuum floors, build cars and even perform surgery. While not quite on the intelligence level of the Jetsons’ robot maid, Rosie, they are rather smart. Nonetheless, modern robots struggle to handle ...

Recommended for you

Technology near for real-time TV political fact checks

January 18, 2019

A Duke University team expects to have a product available for election year that will allow television networks to offer real-time fact checks onscreen when a politician makes a questionable claim during a speech or debate.

Privacy becomes a selling point at tech show

January 7, 2019

Apple is not among the exhibitors at the 2019 Consumer Electronics Show, but that didn't prevent the iPhone maker from sending a message to attendees on a large billboard.

China's Huawei unveils chip for global big data market

January 7, 2019

Huawei Technologies Ltd. showed off a new processor chip for data centers and cloud computing Monday, expanding into new and growing markets despite Western warnings the company might be a security risk.


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

3.7 / 5 (3) Jun 14, 2012
English already has a great word for "self-recover". It's "recover".
5 / 5 (2) Jun 14, 2012
..which is something nobody has done until now...
The Japanese flying orb still appears more robust for me
not rated yet Jun 29, 2012
tank you
pleas hellp to controll the led or other devices by serial or usb port

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.