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Meet SCAMP, the Stanford Climbing and Aerial Maneuvering Platform, a robot that can fly, land on vertical walls, and then scamper up them. SCAMP flies using quadrotors and climbs up walls with spiny feet, and was built at Stanford’s Biomimetics and Dextrous Manipulation Lab.
“Quadrotors have limited endurance because of restrictions on battery capacity and the physics of small-scale flight, but perching can allow them to operate for hours or even days, gathering data or performing communication tasks while stationary,” says project lead PhD candidate Morgan Pope.
Perching is usually difficult for robots, Pope says. But this robot has a unique advantage in that it can use its climbing abilities to reposition itself if it lands improperly.
SCAMP is based on multi-years’ work on climbing robots performed at the lab. They first began looking at feet coated with adhesive, but settled on spined feet that work on the same principle as those of an insect. Spined feet have the advantage of being lightweight and low-power – both important qualities for a flying machine.
The feet are not the only similarity this robot shares with insects. The feet are attached to long legs that are based on those of creatures like stick insects or daddy-long-legs. This particular design (long, thin, and low-weight) allows SCAMP to take fewer steps and conserve energy.
To top it all off, SCAMP features a pretty long tail. It approaches walls tail-first. When contact is made, it is detected by accelerometers, and the robot then knows to pivot around its tail until it’s oriented properly to the wall.
Pope says that they “see SCAMP as the starting place for an entire family of perching and climbing robots of varying scales and attachment strategies. The lessons we learned from SCAMP should allow us to tackle new surfaces, new environments, and different quadrotor platforms with new sensing and communication abilities.”