Soft Robotic Technologies for High Performance Flight
Soft Robotics is now considered one of the most promising frontiers for robotics research and technological innovation. Being “soft” is more and more a characteristics needed in robotics systems, especially in those that have to interact with humans or within particular environments. The importance of soft body parts appears clear if taking a look at many natural organisms, where softness, compliance, and embodied intelligence are useful characteristics for reducing the complexity of behaviour control.
This is also the case of flying animals, which combine sensing and control with adaptive body designs, exploiting fluid dynamic and biomechanical effects to achieve very high levels of operational robustness and multiple functionalities.
Current aerial robots are typically made out of rigid materials and morphologies, and rely on complex sensing and dynamic closed loop control to fly. The use of soft and compliant materials and architectures would enable creating a new generation of flying robots with enhanced operational versatility, performance and robustness, better adaptability in the real world, and reduced control complexity.
Our goal is to develop the next generation aerial robots which use soft robotics technologies and adaptive morphologies to achieve high-performance flight behaviours and better adaptability to environmental changes, by taking inspiration from natural organisms.
More specifically, we are looking at the use of soft technologies for flying robots for:
- Multi-modal locomotion: to enable multi-modal mobility across various environments, terrain interfaces and fluid boundaries, by using compliant wings and adaptable mechanisms
- Robotic perching : to create soft and compliant interfaces for robotic attachment and energy saving
- Aerial construction: to manufacture support structures using soft phase-changing materials
"How can soft robots help us?” Interview with Dr. Mirko Kovac and other experts of the soft robotics community during the “Soft Robotics Week” (April 25-30, 2016, Livorno, Italy):
- Bio-inspired Soft Aerial Robots: Adaptive Morphology for High-Performance Flight, S. Sareh, R. Siddall, T. Alhinai, and M. Kovac. Soft Robotics: Trends, Applications and Challenges, vol. 17 of Biosystems & Biorobotics, pp. 65-74, September, 2016.
- Learning from nature how to land aerial robots, M. Kovac, Science, Vol. 352, Issue 6288, pp. 895-896, May, 2016.
- Tensile Web Construction and Perching with Nano Aerial Vehicles, A. Braithwaite*, T. Alhinai*, M. Haas-Heger, E. McFarlane, and M. Kovac, Int. Symposium on Robotics Research, Sestri Levante, Italy, September, 2015.
- A Water Jet Thruster for an Aquatic Micro Air Vehicle, R. Siddall and M. Kovac, Int. Conf. on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), Seattle, USA, May, 2015.
- Sina Sareh
- Talib Ahinai
- Robert Siddall
- Laura Margheri
The Aerial Robotics Laboratory at Imperial College London is Member of the Community of RoboSoft, the EU-funded ICT FET-Open Coordination Action on Soft Robotics (http://www.robosoftca.eu/)