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Technology Factsheet

Avian-Inspired Grasping For Quadrotor Micro Aerial Vehicles

Category: Robotics > Dismantling and Retrieval > End Effector
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Taking a cue from how eagles work, the researchers believe that diving drones can make for drones that weigh less and use less power, using acceleration velocity gained from diving to quickly regain altitude. It may even be possible to build drones that perch. The drone is lightweight: the quadrotor and the gripper-claw combined weigh less than a pound and a half.

The drones could be used in rescue operations where speed and time are critical, and in operations requiring [an unmanned aerial vehicle] to quickly swoop down and pick up an object of interest.

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To build the gripper-claw, the team first created a two-pronged fork surrounding a spherical chamber. When attached to a servomotor, the prongs could open and close, and scoop up a plastic ball into the chamber. But the gripper wasn’t very efficient when attached to the drone, and would fail to pick up a ball when traveling faster than one meter per second.

So the team redesigned the gripper. They created a three-fingered claw made of thermoplastic with a rubber skin, which improved its grip. The claw was also more flexible than the two-pronged fork, allowing it to pick up a wider variety of objects. And to improve its ability to pick up objects when traveling at faster speeds, the researchers attached the claw to a rotating arm, which simulates how an eagle draws its claws back while diving, reducing the relative speed between itself and its target.

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