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Proceedings Paper

Demonstrations of bio-inspired perching landing gear for UAVs
Author(s): Mindy Tieu; Duncan M. Michael; Jeffery B. Pflueger; Manik S. Sethi; Kelli N. Shimazu; Tatiana M. Anthony; Christopher L. Lee
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Paper Abstract

Results are presented which demonstrate the feasibility and performance of two concepts of biologically-inspired landing-gear systems that enable bird-sized, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV’s) to land, perch, and take-off from branchlike structures and/or ledges. The first concept follows the anatomy of birds that can grasp ahold of a branch and perch as tendons in their legs are tensioned. This design involves a gravity-activated, cable-driven, underactuated, graspingfoot mechanism. As the UAV lands, its weight collapses a four-bar linkage pulling a cable which curls two opposing, multi-segmented feet to grasp the landing target. Each foot is a single, compliant mechanism fabricated by simultaneouly 3D-printing a flexible thermo-plastic and a stiffer ABS plastic. The design is optimized to grasp structures over a range of shapes and sizes. Quasi-static and flight tests of this landing gear affixed to RC rotorcraft (24 cm to 550 cm in diameter) demonstrate that the aircraft can land, perch, and take-off from a tree branch, rectangular wood board, PVC pipe, metal hand rail, chair armrest, and in addition, a stone wall ledge. Stability tests show that perching is maintained under base and wind disturbances. The second design concept, inspired by roosting bats, is a two-material, 3D-printed hooking mechanism that enables the UAV to stably suspend itself from a wire or small-diameter branch. The design balances structural stiffness for support and flexibility for the perching process. A flight-test demonstrates the attaching and dis-engaging of a small, RC quadcopter from a suspended line.

Paper Details

Date Published: 22 April 2016
PDF: 8 pages
Proc. SPIE 9797, Bioinspiration, Biomimetics, and Bioreplication 2016, 97970X (22 April 2016); doi: 10.1117/12.2218167
Show Author Affiliations
Mindy Tieu, Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering (United States)
Duncan M. Michael, Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering (United States)
Jeffery B. Pflueger, Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering (United States)
Manik S. Sethi, Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering (United States)
Kelli N. Shimazu, Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering (United States)
Tatiana M. Anthony, Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering (United States)
Christopher L. Lee, Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering (United States)


Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 9797:
Bioinspiration, Biomimetics, and Bioreplication 2016
Raúl J. Martín-Palma; Akhlesh Lakhtakia; Mato Knez, Editor(s)

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