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Improved Maneuverability in
One of the operations at the Ecole
Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL)
is its Laboratory of Intelligent Systems
( lis.epfl.ch), also known as the Floreano
Lab. The facility “merges biology and
engineering to design future robotics
systems and better understand biological
systems.” One of their recent developments
is a drone whose wings incorporate featherlike structures that allow the wing’s size and shape to be
modified during flight, allowing it to maneuver more easily
and resist high winds — just like birds do.
According to Matteo di Luca, "We were inspired by
birds: They can radically transform the size and shape of
their wings because they have an articulated skeleton that
is controlled by muscles and covered in feathers that
overlap when the wings are folded.” Accordingly, the drone
also has feathers that it can fold and overlap like a fan.
This concept appears to be most suited to small
lightweight drones, but the researchers hinted that it could
be adaptable to larger aircraft, where “engineers are still
trying to find the ideal replacement for the rigid wings and
ailerons of planes.” According to head honcho, Dario
Floreano, “With the foldable wings, we discovered that we
didn't need ailerons to help the drone turn. By changing
the wingspan and surface area during flight, we could
make it turn automatically.”
Bio-inspired drone can spread or close its
feathered wings during flight.
Construction Bot for Disaster Relief
A more mundane approach to autonomous rescues takes the form of a
prototype construction robot developed as part of Japan’s Tough Robotics
Challenge Program, which is part of something called the Impulsing Paradigm
Challenge through Disruptive Technologies Program (rather torturously
abbreviated as “ImPACT”). The programs are the work of research leaders
from several Japanese universities.
In practical terms, we’re talking about a highly modified hydraulic shovel
that incorporates several special elemental technologies, including sophisticated
sensors and controls, and a tethered multi-rotor UAV that provides image
information to the operator. The UAV includes four fisheye cameras plus a far-infrared camera that can penetrate fog and other visual obstructions.
The consortium is also developing robots with a double rotation
mechanism and double arms “with the purpose of achieving higher operability and
terrain adaptability.” Specifics are available at www.jst.go.jp/impact/en/intro.html.
SERVO 04.2017 9
Relief robot employs UAV to
inspect surrounding terrain.
Hail Queen Simone
Finally, if you haven’t discovered
the You Tube channel of Simone Giertz,
you probably need to do so
immediately. Simone bills herself as the
“Queen of Sh*tty Robots, Breaker of
Transistors, Mistress of Malfunction,
and Mother of Terrible Inventions.”
Giertz (inexplicably pronounced
“yetch”) is a Swedish inventor, maker,
robotics enthusiast, and professional You Tuber who once
studied engineering physics in college but dropped out
after a year. Her interest in electronics
began in 2013, when she invented a
toothbrush helmet for a pilot children’s
Simone’s You Tube videos document
her various robotic inventions, including
a lipstick-applying robot, a machine that
blows your nose for you, vegetable-chopping and sandwich-making bots,
and even an automatic butt-wiping
machine. Be forewarned that some of
the vids are not particularly appropriate for anyone who is
highly sensitive or under the age of, say, 14. SV
Simone and her ingenious lipstick robot.