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Mechanical gripper allows drones “to hang from objects”

By Chris Stonor

Tiny quadcopter drones aka micro air vehicles (MAVs), have short battery lives, so if they can “perch” or “park” somewhere instead of hovering in mid-air and using up much needed power, all the better. To address this potential, a new gripper mechanism has been designed with that in mind, reports newatlas.com.

Developed by engineers at Colorado State University, the device is secured on top of a MAV. It has a vertical plunger-like pad in the middle, which is mechanically linked to two diagonally raised folding arms, one on either side. At the top end of each arm is an inward-facing gripper pad.

When the MAV flies against the underside of a horizontal object such as a pipe or railing, the physical impact triggers the pad down. This causes the two arms to fold inward, clasping the object, and holding the drone in place. Its propeller motors can then be turned off until it needs to fly again. The MAV can literally park itself off the ground.

A close-up view of the gripper mechanism

Depending on the diameter of the object, the MAV arms can either grasp it on either side with their gripper pads, or encircle it and meet together on top. In either case, this action is entirely mechanical, requiring no electricity. A small amount of power is required to move the arms back apart, when it’s time to drop down and resume flight.

Engineer Team Member, Dr. Jianguo Zhao, commented, “Although, our bistable gripper is used with a palm-size quadcopter, the design strategy can also be applied to large-size MAVs for both energy-efficient perching and aerial grasping.”

The gripper is demonstrated in the video below, and is described in a paper that was recently published in the journal IEEE Explore. Other “drone perching examples” include systems that allow MAVs to land on wires, cling to walls or even grip on to a human hand.

Visual presentation


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(News Source: https://newatlas.com)

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