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Tiny Drones that Lift 40x their Weight

Researchers at Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland and Stanford University have developed a line of small flying bots that can move objects that are 40 times their weight.

The drones, called FlyCroTugs (short for “flying, micro tugging robots”), are equipped with a system of winches, adhesives and microspines that allow the tiny crafts, which weigh just a few ounces each, to latch onto just about anything. The winch is one of the few immovable parts of the highly customizable drone — just about everything else about it can be modified for a given scenario. The grippers can be moved around depending on the landing surface, and the drone can take on additional accessories like wheels when a job calls for it.


When it’s time for the drones to lift, they can deploy the grippers and connect with the object. The grippers are a non-sticky adhesive that researchers designed by taking inspiration from the toes of geckos. Rather than just dropping a sticky pad or some hooks, the drone grippers create intermolecular forces between their adhesive pads and the surface of an object. When that won’t do, the microspines — a series of metal spikes resembling the point of a fishing hook — can be called in. Once a drone is connected to the target object, it uses the winch to lift, and can pick up 40 times the weight of its tiny body.

The researchers imagined the drones as a potentially useful tool in sensitive situations like rescue scenarios. They can carry small items on their own or can be used together to move heavier objects. In one instance, researchers used two of the FlyCroTugs bots to open a door by lassoing the handle, turning it, and pulling until it opened. In another instance, the researchers handed the drone a camera and used it to explore a crumbling structure.

The next step for researchers is developing autonomous controls and addressing some of the logistics of using multiple drones at the same time. Just be glad these little guys still have a pretty low lift capacity. When the swole drones show up, humanity will be in trouble.

David Novakhttps://www.gadgetgram.com
For the last 20 years, David Novak has appeared in newspapers, magazines, radio, and TV around the world, reviewing the latest in consumer technology.His byline has appeared in Popular Science, PC Magazine, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, Electronic House Magazine, GQ, Men’s Journal, National Geographic, Newsweek, Popular Mechanics, Forbes Technology, Readers Digest, Cosmopolitan Magazine, Glamour Magazine, T3 Technology Magazine, Stuff Magazine, Maxim Magazine, Wired Magazine, Laptop Magazine, Indianapolis Monthly, Indiana Business Journal, Better Homes and Garden, CNET, Engadget, InfoWorld, Information Week, Yahoo Technology and Mobile Magazine. He has also made radio appearances on the The Mark Levin Radio Show, The Laura Ingraham Talk Show, Bob & Tom Show, and the Paul Harvey RadioShow. He’s also made TV appearances on The Today Show and The CBS Morning Show.His nationally syndicated newspaper column called the GadgetGUY, appears in over 100 newspapers around the world each week, where Novak enjoys over 3 million in readership. David is also a contributing writer fro Men’s Journal, GQ, Popular Mechanics, T3 Magazine and Electronic House here in the U.S.

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