A perching mechanism for micro aerial vehicles


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

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Access options

Buy single article

Instant unlimited access to the full article PDF.

US$ 39.95

Price includes VAT for USA

Subscribe to journal

Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.

US$ 99

This is the net price. Taxes to be calculated in checkout.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5
Fig. 6
Fig. 7
Fig. 8
Fig. 9
Fig. 10
Fig. 11


  1. 1.

    See accompanying video and

  2. 2.

    See accompanying video and


  1. 1.

    Anderson ML, Perry CJ, Hua BM, Olsen DS, Parcus JR, Pederson KM, Jensen DD (2009) The sticky-pad plane and other innovative concepts for perching uavs. In: Proceedings of the 47th AIAA aerospace sciences meeting

  2. 2.

    Asbeck AT, Kim S, Cutkosky MR, Provancher WR, Lanzetta M (2006) Scaling hard vertical surfaces with compliant microspine arrays. Int J Rob Res 25(12):1165

  3. 3.

    Autumn K, Sitti M, Liang YA, Peattie AM, Hansen WR, Sponberg S, Kenny TW, Fearing R, Israelachvili JN, Full RJ (2002) Evidence for van der waals adhesion in gecko setae. Proc Natl Acad Sci 99(19):12252–12256

  4. 4.

    Bayraktar S, Feron E (2008) Experiments with small helicopter automated landings at unusual attitudes. Arxiv preprint arXiv:0709.1744

  5. 5.

    Cortes J, Martinez S, Karatas T, Bullo F (2004) Coverage control for mobile sensing networks. IEEE Trans Robot Autom 20(2):243–255

  6. 6.

    Cory R, Tedrake R (2008) Experiments in fixed-wing uav perching. In: AIAA conference on guidance, navigation, and control

  7. 7.

    Daltorio KA, Horchler AD, Gorb SN, Ritzmann RE, Quinn RD (2005) A small wall-walking robot with compliant, adhesive feet. In: IEEE/RSJ international conference on intelligent robots and systems, pp 3648–3653

  8. 8.

    Frantsevich L, Gorb S (2004) Structure and mechanics of the tarsal chain in the hornet, vespa crabro (hymenoptera: Vespidae): implications on the attachment mechanism. Arthropod Struct Develop 33(1):77–89. Attachment Systems of Arthropods

  9. 9.

    Gao H, Yao H (2004) Shape insensitive optimal adhesion of nanoscale fibrillar structures. Proc Natl Acad Sci 101(21):7851–7856

  10. 10.

    Gorb SN (2008) Biological attachment devices: exploring nature’s diversity for biomimetics. Phil Trans R Soc A Math Phys Eng Sci 366(1870):1557

  11. 11. Didel SA (2008)

  12. 12. Durovis steel torsion springs (2009)

  13. 13. Falcom mk iv 1.6g servo (2009)

  14. 14. Troubel shooter 1000 high speed camera (2007)

  15. 15. Dimension elite 3d printer (2008)

  16. 16. Proanalyst motion analysis software (2008)

  17. 17.

    Klaptocz A, Boutinard Rouelle G, Briod A, Zufferey J-C, Floreano D (2010) An indoor flying platform with collision robustness and self-recovery. In: IEEE/RSJ international conference on robotics and automation (to appear)

  18. 18.

    Kovac M, Fuchs M, Guignard A, Zufferey J-C, Floreano D (2008) A miniature 7 g jumping robot. In: IEEE int conf robot autom, pp 373–378

  19. 19.

    Kovac M, Fuchs M, Savioz G, Guignard A, Nicoud J-D, Zufferey J-C, Floreano D (2007) Self deploying microglider. In: Flying insects and robots symposium

  20. 20.

    Kovac M, Guignard A, Nicoud J-D, Zufferey J-C, Floreano D (2007) A 1.5 g SMA-actuated microglider looking for the light. In: IEEE int conf robot autom, pp 367–372

  21. 21.

    Kovac M, Zufferey JC, Floreano D (2009) Towards a self-deploying and gliding robot. In: Floreano D, Zufferey J-C, Srinivasan MV, Ellington C (eds) Flying insects and robots, chapter 19. Springer, Heidelberg

  22. 22.

    La Rosa G, Messina M, Muscato G, Sinatra R (2002) A low-cost lightweight climbing robot for the inspection of vertical surfaces. Mechatronics 12(1):71–96

  23. 23.

    Leven S, Zufferey J-C, Floreano D (2007) A simple and robust fixed-wing platform for outdoor flying robot experiments. In: International symposium on flying insects and robots, pp 69–70

  24. 24.

    Lussier-Desbiens A, Cutkosky MR (2010) Landing and perching on vertical surfaces with microspines for small unmanned air vehicles. J Intell Robot Syst 57(1):313–327

  25. 25.

    Mainwaring A, Culler D, Polastre J, Szewczyk R, Anderson J (2002) Wireless sensor networks for habitat monitoring. In: Proceedings of the 1st ACM international workshop on wireless sensor networks and applications

  26. 26.

    Murphy MP, Sitti M (2007) Waalbot: an agile small-scale wall-climbing robot utilizing dry elastomer adhesives. IEEE/ASME Trans Mechatron 12(3):330–338

  27. 27.

    Nicoud J-D, Zufferey J-C (2002) Toward indoor flying robots. In: IEEE/RSJ international conference on robots and systems (IROS’02). Lausanne, pp 787–792

  28. 28.

    Prahlad H, Pelrine R, Stanford S, Marlow J, Kornbluh R (2008) Electroadhesive robots—wall climbing robots enabled by a novel, robust, and electrically controllable adhesion technology. In: Robotics and automation, 2008, IEEE international conference on, pp 3028–3033

  29. 29.

    Provancher WR, Clark JE, Geisler B, Cutkosky MR (2004) Towards pentration-based clawed climbing. In: Proceedings of the 7th international conference on climbing and walking robots (CLAWAR 2004), vol 1, pp 22–24

  30. 30.

    Qian Z, Zhao Y, Fu Z (2006) Development of wall-climbing robots with sliding suction cups. In: IEEE/RSJ international conference on intelligent robots and systems, pp 3417–3422

  31. 31.

    Roberts JF, Zufferey JC, Floreano D (2008) Energy management for indoor hovering robots. In: IEEE/RSJ international conference on intelligent robots and systems (IROS2008), pp 1242–1247

  32. 32.

    Santos D, Heyneman B, Kim S, Esparza N, Cutkosky MR (2008) Gecko-inspired climbing behaviors on vertical and overhanging surfaces. In: Robotics and automation, 2008, IEEE international conference on, pp 1125–1131

  33. 33.

    Shen W, Gu J, Shen Y (2006) Permanent magnetic system design for the wall-climbing robot. Applied Bionics and Biomechanics 3(3):151–159

  34. 34.

    Ullman DG (2002) The mechanical design process. McGraw-Hill, New York

  35. 35.

    Wickenheiser AM, Garcia E (2008) Optimization of perching maneuvers through vehicle morphing. J Guid Control Dyn 31(4):815–823

  36. 36.

    Wile GD, Daltorio KA, Diller ED, Palmer LR, Gorb SN, Ritzmann RE, Quinn RD (2008) Screenbot: walking inverted using distributed inward gripping. In: Robotics and automation, IEEE international conference on, pp 1513–1518

  37. 37.

    Wright K, Lind R (2007) Investigating sensor emplacement on vertical surfaces for a biologically-inspired morphing design from bats. In: AIAA atmospheric flight mechanics conference and exhibit

  38. 38.

    Zufferey J-C, Floreano D (2006) Fly-inspired visual steering of an ultralight indoor aircraft. IEEE Trans Robot 22:137–146

Download references


We would like to thank Jean-Christophe Zufferey from the Laboratory of Intelligent Systems at EPFL for proofreading the article and the constructive feedback on the experiments. As well, we thank the Atelier d’électromécanique (AEM) for the production of the parts. This project is funded by the EPFL, by the Swiss National Science Foundation, grant number 200020-116149 and by the European project Swarmanoid of the Future and Emergent Technology division.

Author information

Correspondence to Mirko Kovač.

Electronic Supplementary Material

Below is the link to the electronic supplementary material.

(MPG 14.6 MB)

(MPG 14.6 MB)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Kovač, M., Germann, J., Hürzeler, C. et al. A perching mechanism for micro aerial vehicles. J. Micro-Nano Mech. 5, 77–91 (2009) doi:10.1007/s12213-010-0026-1

Download citation


  • Shape Memory Alloy
  • Impact Force
  • Landing Gear
  • Poplar Wood
  • Torsion Spring