Researchers at Stanford University have created a drone that can perch on walls and ceilings like a bug, making progress on the problem of limited flight endurance that has plagued the devices.
Utilising several “microspines”, (textured pads inspired by the same technology that lets geckos climb walls) and a tail spine, the drone positions itself against a wall or ceiling. The microspines drag against the bumps in the wall and hang on using friction, allowing the drone to perch securely on materials like stucco or cinderblock.
This can help drones use their batteries more efficiently: rather than hovering for minutes on end (draining their power), this configuration could allow a pilot drone to find a suitable location and hang out to shoot footage or to take pictures, conserving its energy. It also makes it possible for drones to continue operating in weather conditions that it might be unable to fly in.
An early version of this technology was first introduced about a year ago and though, as one researcher writes, it’s still “not as foolproof as landing on a level surface”, he is hopeful that Stanford’s team is “closer than ever to making perching accessible outside a research environment”.
Stanford’s team is now looking into new gripping strategies and possibly experimenting with sticky adhesives so that the drones can attach to smoother surfaces.