AirBurr stumbles – but is unstoppable

Robots capable of flight in cramped and cluttered environments have many advantages over their ground-based counterparts, but most current systems suffer from the same fundamental problem: any contact with obstacles has catastrophic, mission-ending results. What if instead of avoiding collisions, a flying robot can become robust to them, and even take advantage of contact with its environment?

Flying insects are capable of navigating cluttered indoor environments; the final demonstrator, dubbed the AirBurr, will boast this capability as well. AirBurr will introduce concepts not yet seen in indoor flying robots: The AirBurr will feature a robust mechanical construction that can absorb the shock of collisions and a robust control strategy that can recover and stay airborne after contact. Smart sensing will be used to detect the position and force of contact, and perhaps even the surface characteristics of the environment. When on the ground, the AirBurr will be able to get airborne from any position, even if it is stuck under a table or between some rubble. Instead of fearing contact, the AirBurr will take advantage of its environment. It will be able to attach to surfaces to have a bird’s-eye view of a room without using energy for lift. Like insects trying to find a way out of a window, the AirBurr will also be able to fly along a wall to reach an opening or to scan a surface.


Source: EPFL

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