Researchers at the Imperial College London’s Aerial Robotics Laboratory have created the SpiderMAV – a robot that stabilizes itself by shooting out multiple strands of rope that can stick to magnetic surfaces. The drone, which is a standard quadcopter, has a built-in rope gun that blasts out little connectors. The drone then pulls against the ropes, stabilizing itself in flight.
The leader researcher, Mirko Kovac, equates the drone with Darwin’s bark spider, an arachnid that can shoot a web “25 meters” in any direction.
The system can help keep a drone in place even in heavy winds as simulated by fan crosswinds. This is just a proof of concept so the magnets don’t have variable strength nor are the cables particularly resilient. However, you could imagine this sort of system being used to manage communications in a time of crisis or maintain surveillance in heavy weather. The researchers presented their findings in Vancouver. Their paper is called “SpiderMAV: Perching and Stabilizing Micro Aerial Vehicles with Bio-inspired Tensile Anchoring Systems,” by K. Zhang, P. Chermprayong, T. M. Alhinai, R. Siddall, and M. Kovac from Imperial College London.