, Volume 5, Issue 3-4, pp 77-91
Date: 04 May 2010

A perching mechanism for micro aerial vehicles

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Abstract

Micro Aerial Vehicles (MAVs) with perching capabilities can be used to efficiently place sensors in aloft locations. A major challenge for perching is to build a lightweight mechanism that can be easily mounted on a MAV, allowing it to perch (attach and detach on command) to walls of different materials. To date, only very few systems have been proposed that aim at enabling MAVs with perching capabilities. Typically, these solutions either require a delicate dynamic flight maneuver in front of the wall or expose the MAV to very high impact forces when colliding head-first with the wall. In this article, we propose a 4.6 g perching mechanism that allows MAVs to perch on walls of natural and man-made materials such as trees and painted concrete facades of buildings. To do this, no control for the MAV is needed other than flying head-first into the wall. The mechanism is designed to translate the impact impulse into a snapping movement that sticks small needles into the surface and uses a small electric motor to detach from the wall and recharge the mechanism for the next perching sequence. Based on this principle, it damps the impact forces that act on the platform to avoid damage of the MAV. We performed 110 sequential perches on a variety of substrates with a success rate of 100%. The main contributions of this article are (i) the evaluation of different designs of perching, (ii) the description and formal modeling of a novel perching mechanism, and (iii) the demonstration and characterization of a functional prototype on a microglider. (See accompanying video and http://lis.epfl.ch/microglider/perching.mpg.)