Small drones can fly around and observe things, but their ability to interact with the surrounding world was limited. Researchers at Stanford University are changing this with the development of small flying drones called FlyCroTug that can move and drag objects. These drones can work in teams with a pair of robots that can be attached to a door handle and open the door.
FlyCroTugs were developed in collaboration between Mark Cutkosky and the Fletcher Jones Chair at the Stanford University School of Engineering. and Dario Floreano at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland. The drones are micro-aircraft that have been modified to be anchored to surfaces with adhesives that have been developed by the feet of geckos and insects that Cutkosky developed in his laboratory in a previous project.
FlyCroTugs can pull up to 40 times their weight They carry cameras or water bottles and open doors. The researchers claim that similar vehicles with aerodynamic forces lift only about twice their own weight. The flying machines are small in size, so they can move through tight spaces and work close to people.
The small stature makes them suitable for search and rescue missions. The idea behind it is that the flying robots can take a camera with them to enable rescue workers to plan access to a dangerous area or even remove debris. FlyCroTugs were developed with inspiration from wasps. A wasp will fly to a piece of food, and if it's too heavy to fly, the wasp will drag it across the ground.
The drones have gecko grippers with adhesives that are not sticky, holding intermolecular forces between the glue and the surface they land on. The robots have 32 microspins that can snap on rough surfaces. The flying machines also have a winch and cable and the microspines or gecko glue to the tug.