Robot Flies, Lands and Crawls Up Walls Like a Bug

Robot Flies, Lands and Crawls Up Walls Like a Bug

Stanford Climbing and Aerial Maneuvering Platform (SCAMP) robot going for walk up the Stanford clock tower. (credit: Standford Biomimetics and Dextrous Manipulation Lab)

March 17, 2016 | Source: Michelle Starr, CNET

After years of trials and research, Stanford University has made a robot that's agile as a cockroach.


Google's AlphaGo artificial intelligence earlier this week proved that machines can outsmart humans. A new prototype from researchers at California's Stanford University shows that robots are more physically versatile than us, too.

Not can the robot only fly, being propelled in the air by quadrotor helicopters, it can also land on a vertical wall then climb up it using spiny feet. When it slips a little, it can adjust on the fly.

It's called the Stanford Climbing and Aerial Maneuvering Platform, or SCAMP, and it combines lessons learned from previous machines built at the university's Biomimetics and Dextrous Manipulation Lab.

"Quadrotors have limited endurance because of restrictions on battery capacity and the physics of small-scale flight, but perching can allow them to operate for hours or even days, gathering data or performing communication tasks while stationary," explained Morgan Pope, lead author of a paper on the project currently in review, in an article on IEEE.

He further explains that perching perfectly is difficult for robots, but this drone is able to reposition itself if it lands improperly thanks to its climbing abilities.

The lab has been working on building climbing robots for some years, starting with spined feet that grip rough surfaces, much the same way that spiny insect feet grip surfaces. Although the lab went on to look at adhesive feet, the spined feet proved to be the most efficient method for SCAMP. They are lightweight and low-power, both of which are important for a flying machine.

The feet are also on weirdly long legs that make the robot look distinctly insect-like. They look at lot like antennae, but they're actually based on the long legs of creatures such as daddy-long-legs spiders and stick insects. This is because long, thin, low-weight legs allow the robot to take fewer steps, which ends up more efficient.