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Researchers develop robot that can fly and climb walls

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Chinese researchers have designed a novel flying robot that not only has the ability to climb walls, but is also capable of avoiding obstacles and even jumping over grooves on wall surfaces. It can also conduct interactive operations while in flight to clean glass curtain walls in high-rise buildings. Importantly, it has been designed so that the whole system’s contact force can be controlled precisely without any force sensors, said the team from the Shenyang Institute of Automation (SIA) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

The new robot represents a major advance in safety and efficiency. It comprises a single-degree-of-freedom manipulator cube-frame end effector and a hex-rotor UAV system. “In the near future, we might see extensive use of this new system in large infrastructure maintenance, and other special applications, such as scientific sampling,” said Meng Xiangdong, the robot’s designer.

The team reported the development of a contact aerial manipulator system that shows high flexibility and strong mission adaptability at the 2019 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS 2019) in Macao last week. How to control the force is considered the most difficult problem, since flying robots usually are sensitive to an external force.

According to Meng, realizing this objective required first making a flying robot with closed-loop control behave like a regular spring system. The elastic coefficient could then be easily changed by altering the control parameters.

“It means that we can take the robot as a spring system so that the contact process can be safe enough,” said Meng.

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