Lots of flying bugs, such as houseflies or bees, bump into walls and windows and keep going. Why can't a flying robot do that? That's the question Adam Klaptocz, a doctoral candidate in robots at the EPFL in Switzerland wanted to answer. Most flying robots are designed with navigational systems that prevent them from colliding into objects. But what if the robot was resilient enough — at least as much as a bee or housefly — to bump into things and keep going?

Klaptocz and his colleagues built a lightweight autonomous robot that's protected by a carbon fiber cage. The structure is light enough that it doesn't drag down the machine or and interfere with its center of gravity. But if it does bump into something, the cage offers protection. If knocked to the ground, the robot is which is capable of uprighting itself using spring-based legs. Once upright, it returns to the air.

“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.

The researchers have developed an algorithm that allows the robot to control its flying speed, and they're working on smart sensing within the robot's structure to detect the position and force of contact with the environment.


Credit: Youtube screen grab