In this article, we take a look at a novel new drone that draws its inspiration from a spider’s ability to hang from webbing. Don’t you just love when science copies nature?
Humankind is often inspired by nature. We often see special physical powers in the animal kingdom, where those of men begin to seem rather limited.
Sometimes that inspiration leads us to make the world a better place. After all, if we have the power to understand how nature works, don’t we have the responsibility to put that power to good use?
Over at Imperial College London, researchers are exercising their power for a drone that would make Marvel comics happy. They call it the SpiderMAV, and it’s designed to perch on magnetic surfaces with it’s own ‘web-shooters’.
Does Whatever a Spider Drone Can
For the most part, the SpiderMAV looks like any ordinary drone. It’s basically a DJI Matrice 100 that has been modified with a custom web-shooter and a stabilizing module on the underside.
When it finds a magnetic surface it can hang from, it shoots out an anchor connected to a line of polystyrene thread. This allows it to save power by hanging upside down, giving it the relative stamina of a spider.
Ok, I couldn’t resist.Drone+radioactive spider bite = SpiderMAV #greatidea #greatresponsibilityClick To Tweet
The idea is interesting. Not just because it’s novel, but because it could provide solutions for extending the battery life of a drone and enabling longer drone flights.
It’s biomimicry at its finest, and according to project leader Dr. Mirko Kovac, that’s kind of the point. He says “Animals often face similar challenges as robots when moving in outdoor terrains, and bio-inspired approaches can provide value in terms of energy efficiency and robustness in complex environments.”
Which reminds me: this isn’t the first perching drone I’ve seen. Granted, it’s hands down the neatest, but I remember seeing last year that the U.S. Air Force was funding a ‘bird-like’ drone that could perch on power lines or ledges like a bird. You can check it out here.
Stanford also created an interesting little SCAMP last year.
I love seeing biomimicry in tech innovation because it shows you that nature still has all kinds of tricks to show us. Or, if not nature, Stan Lee.
You get Points for Innovation, Spider Drone
Technology is rife with inspiration from nature. Because let’s face it, Mother Nature has figured out how to accomplish quite a few amazing things.
And while we’ve copied many of those things for our own devices, there is still much more to learn. If I had to take a guess, I would say that the animal kingdom has a lot more tricks for us to make use of.
We don’t have to look too far for an example aside from the USAFs bird-drones. Over at Stanford, researchers went further than SCAMP in working with quadcopter drones that use microspines to grip onto walls.
The basic idea is the same, namely ‘find a way to let the drone perch and conserve energy’, but the inspiration is clearly different, this time going for a gecko grip rather than shooting out webs.
And this has me wondering what other kind of nature-inspired drones we’ll be seeing in the future. Perhaps we’ll see one with a coating that gives it camouflage like an octopus, or a flying battering ram based off of an actual ram skull.
But I’m far more interested to hear what you have to say.