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Super strong insect drone can move objects 40 times its own weight

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Robotics researchers from two top universities have built a microdrone capable of pulling open doors and shifting objects vastly heavier than their tiny size.

A team comprised of researchers from Stanford and the University of Lausanne, Switzerland, sought to develop a drone that was capable of ‘forceful tugging’ (not that kind of tugging you filthy person).

As is often the case with technological breakthroughs, the team took inspiration from nature and in particular, predatory wasps. Predatory wasps will often kill much larger prey. When they are not capable of flying off with their fresh kill, they plant their feet and drag it along the ground back to their home.

A wasp dragging a dead tarantula along the ground. This phenomenon served as inspiration from the developers of the FlyCroTug

How does it work?

Each of these microdrones, named FlyCroTugs, weigh just 3.5 ounces (100 grams). They are fitted with tiny winches and cables, similar to ones you might observe on the front of some trucks or four-wheel drives. When they needs to drag something, they lands on a surface and use a combination of adhesive and tiny metal hooks (called microspines) to stick to a surface. They can then slowly winch objects towards them, up slopes etc. The design of their adhesive hooks mimics the feet of insects or geckos which allow them to effortlessly hang from walls or ceilings.

The FlyCroTug winching a payload up one floor

 Uses and limitations:

These drones are designed for use in emergency scenarios such as when a building has collapsed. They are envisioned to play a role of flying into rubble and dragging cameras to a location which will enable emergency personnel to get a better view of what’s going on.

When it comes to moving objects, the FlyCroTugs can work together as a team to move larger objects such as debris or tools. As the cover image shows, these drones can also open doors with one pulling the door handle down and the other dragging the door open.  Unfortunately, due to their tiny size, their batteries are only capable of keeping the FlyCroTug flying for five minutes which limits them to a short range from their pilot.

Story and video of drone in action on second page

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