This Bird Bot Can Perch Anywhere and Carry Objects Just Like a Real Bird
‘It’s a bird, it’s a plane…wait, it’s a drone or better yet a perching bird bot?!’ Meet “SNAG,” a “stereotyped nature-inspired aerial grasper,” otherwise known as a bird robot that has feet and legs like a peregrine falcon and can perch and carry objects just like a bird. Instead of bones, this innovative bird bot has a 3D-printed structure and motors and fishing line that serve as muscles and tendons. SNAG is the brainchild of Stanford engineers who were fascinated by the way birds fly and their ability to land anywhere and on any surface – wet or dry, smooth or rugged, or on a flimsy or solid branch.
They also noted that regardless of the surface, the birds use the “same aerial maneuvers” and then they let leave it up to their feet to control the “variability and complexity of the surface texture itself.” This systematic behavior, which was observed in every bird landing, is the meaning behind the “S” in SNAG, which stands for “stereotyped.” While roboticists often draw inspiration from animals to get to the bottom of arduous engineering problems, the execution of a functioning prototype can be challenging. Case in point, it took 20 versions to perfect SNAG’s 3-D printed structure.
The bird bot’s aerial maneuvers were based on parrotlets, whereas its legs were inspired by a peregrine falcon in order to factor in the size of the quadcopter. Each leg is equipped with its own motor for back-and-forth movement and another for controlling grasp. Comparable to the mechanics of birds’ tendons around the ankles, the bird bot’s “leg absorbs landing impact energy and passively converts it into grasping force.” Impressively, SNAG has a “strong and high-speed clutch,” which is activated to close in 20 milliseconds. Once it’s securely grasping onto a branch, the bird bot’s ankles lock. Then an accelerometer on the right foot acknowledges that the robot has landed, which alerts a balancing algorithm to stabilize it.
There is an array of applications for this genius bird bot. It can be used in search and rescue and wildfire monitoring. Also, SNAG can be attached to technologies besides drones.
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