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Researchers Build Flying Robotic 'tree Helicopter'

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robotic samara

A natural samara is positioned next to the smallest and lightest robotic samara constructed to date. The wing of the vehicle is similar in size to a natural samara wing.

Credit: Ulrich et al. / University of Maryland

University of Maryland researchers have developed a robotic flying device based on samaras — single-winged seeds that are released by trees. After testing natural samaras, Maryland's Evan Ulrich, Darryll Pines, and Sean Humbert measured the samara's flight dynamics and used that data to control the robotic samara's autorotation and flight path.

The researchers built three robotic samaras ranging in size from 7.5 centimeters to half a meter. The robots are made out of carbon fiber and can be remotely steered by altering the wing pitch, enabling the samaras to hover, climb, and translate. The researchers say the robotic samaras are very sturdy, because even if they lose power during flight, they can autorotate down and land without harm.

The device could be used in satellite communications and three-dimensional mapping, Ulrich says. "One possibility is using it as an autorotating communications platform to carry small components for satellites, without the requirement of a huge launch cost," he says.

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Abstracts Copyright © 2011 Information Inc., Bethesda, Maryland, USA


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