The use of robots to find victims after natural disasters is fast becoming commonplace, with well documented cases where robots have been sent into areas too dangerous for rescue workers. While the issues surrounding robustness, control and autonomy are frequently cited as key areas for research, a team from LIS, EPFL and NCCR Robotics is working on another important aspect, how to make flying robots easily transportable and quick to deploy.
The issue of how to use one robot across multiple terrains is an ongoing question in robotics research. In a paper published in Bioinspiration and Biomimetics today, a team from LIS, EPFL and NCCR Robotics propose a new kind of flying robot that can also walk. Called the DALER (Deployable Air-Land Exploration Robot), the robot uses adaptive morphology inspired by the common vampire bat, Desmodus rotundus, meaning that the wings have been actuated using a foldable skeleton mechanism covered with a soft fabric so that they can be used both as wings and as legs (whegs).
Our colleagues at the Laboratory of Intelligent Systems at EPFL just sent us a fun video of Santa riding a fixed-wing robot and loosing a present. Luckily, the present can autonomously find its way to its destination.