Wasp-Inspired Robots Can Lift 40 Times Their Weight

Scientists have developed small flying robots that can carry objects up to 40 times their weight and even open closed doors, making them useful for search and rescue operations. Air micro-vehicles, called FlyCroTugs, can be anchored to various surfaces using adhesives inspired by gecko and insect feet.

With these attachment mechanisms, FlyCroTugs can shoot objects up to 40 times their weight, such as doorknobs in a scenario, or cameras and water bottles in case of rescue.

“The combination of the aerodynamic forces of our aerial vehicle and the interaction forces generated with the fixation mechanisms has resulted in something very mobile, very powerful and very micro,”

said student Matthew Estrada. graduated from Stanford University in the United States.

The researchers explain that the small size of the FlyCroTugs allows them to navigate in confined spaces and close enough to people, which makes them useful for search and rescue.

“The wasps can fly quickly to a piece of food, and if it’s too heavy to take off, they drag it to the ground, so that’s kind of the inspiration for our approach,”

said Mark Cutkosky. from Stanford University.

They also followed the example of the wasp by proposing different mounting options depending on where the FlyCroTugs land. For smooth surfaces, robots use gecko forceps, non-sticky adhesives that mimic the complex structures of the gecko’s toes and hold together by creating intermolecular forces between the adhesive and the surface.

For rough surfaces, these robots are equipped with 32 microspines, a series of hook-shaped metal spines that can individually lock onto small recesses on a surface.

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