Amazing SpiderMAV drone fires off webs to gain added stability

When it comes to new technologies, inspiration frequently comes from the animal kingdom. In the past, we’ve covered robots that run like ostriches, wind turbines modeled on humpback whales, and durable solar cells inspired by the honeycomb pattern of insect eyes. Now there’s a new one to add to the mix: web-shooting drones patterned after spiders. If Peter Parker was ever going to buy and use a drone, this would be the one for him!

Called SpiderMAV, this specular drone — which comes equipped with its own Spider-Man style webshooters — was created by the Aerial Robotics Laboratory of the U.K.’s Imperial College London. The drone is a modified DJI Matrice 100 drone with an additional magnetic perching module mounted on top, and a stabilizing module attached to its underside. When SpiderMAV finds a magnetic surface that it wants to perch under, it uses its compressed gas webshooter to fire out a line of polystyrene thread, which serves as an anchor. It then reels in the thread until it’s taut, and can then enjoy some motor-free hangtime while secured to the surface.

spidermav drone mjk2mtg3na
Imperial College London
Imperial College London

“When facing design and control challenges in robotics we look at efficient solutions that are used in nature,” Dr. Mirko Kovac, who led the project, told Digital Trends. “Animals often face similar challenges as robots when moving in outdoor terrains, and bio-inspired approaches can provide value in terms of energy efficiency and robustness in complex environments.”

While Imperial College London isn’t the only research institute to be working on ways of letting drones “perch” to get some much-needed downtime, the use of spider webs certainly makes this among the more memorable solutions to the problem. One of the big advantages of the approach is that not only does it allow the robot to perch, but also to do so in a way that gives it some added stability. “We have looked at how spiders use their webs to stabilize in unknown environments,” Kovac continued. “By extracting the key principles of web building and web usage, [our SpiderMAV drone] can use string-based systems to perch for energy-efficient and wind-robust station holding.”

At present, the drone is still a work in progress, meaning that there has not been serious thought put into how SpiderMAV will disengage from the webs once they’re fired, or whether it might be possible to adjust its anchoring system so as to attach to other, non-magnetic surfaces. Still, this is very promising work that reminds us that there’s still plenty more innovation to be done in the drone world.

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: heat-powered watches, phone cases with reflexes

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Gaming

Fortnite V-Bucks being used by criminals for money laundering on dark web

Criminals are using Fortnite's V-Bucks for money laundering schemes on the dark web. Epic Games, apparently, is not doing enough to prevent the game from being used for the illegal activity.
Computing

Google is giving its G Suite web apps new touches of visual improvements

Your G Suite applications will soon have a different look. Several of the web apps are getting updated with subtle visual improvements inspired by Google's Material Design guidelines. 
Computing

Our favorite Chrome themes add some much-needed pizzazz to your boring browser

Sometimes you just want Chrome to show a little personality and ditch the grayscale for something a little more lively. Lucky for you, we've sorted through the Chrome Web Store to find best Chrome themes available.
Emerging Tech

Want to know which drones are flying near you? There’s an app for that

Want to know what that mysterious drone buzzing over your head is up to? A new system developed by AirMap, Google Wing, and Kittyhawk.io could soon tell you -- via a map on your phone.
Emerging Tech

A Japanese hotel fires half its robot staff for being bad at their jobs

Japan’s oddball Henn na Hotel has fired half of its 243 robot staff. The reason? Because these labor-saving machines turned out to be causing way more problems than they were solving.
Emerging Tech

CERN plans to build a massive particle collider that dwarfs the LHC

CERN already has the world's biggest particle accelerator. Now it wants a bigger one. Meet the 9 billion euro Future Circular Collider that will allow physicists to extend their study of the universe and matter at the smallest level.
Emerging Tech

Forget fireworks. Japan will soon have artificial meteor showers on tap

Tokyo-based startup Astro Live Experiences is preparing to launch its first artificial meteor shower over Japan, serving as a showcase of its prowess in the space entertainment sector.
Cars

Robomart’s self-driving grocery store is like Amazon Go on wheels

Robomart's driverless vehicle is like an Amazon Go store on wheels, with sensors tracking what you grab from the shelves. If you don't want to shop online or visit the grocery store yourself, Robomart will bring the store to you.
Emerging Tech

Glowing space billboards could show ads in the night sky

Look up at the night sky in 2020 and you might see an ad for McDonald's floating among the stars. A Russian startup is working on a project that uses a constellation of small satellites in low-Earth orbit to create glowing ads.
Emerging Tech

New brainwave reader tells teachers if students are concentrating

Massachusetts-based startup BrainCo has developed brainwave-reading headbands which can reportedly help reveal if students are concentrating in class. Here's how they're being used.
Emerging Tech

Fears about kids’ screen use may have been overblown, Oxford researchers find

Many people take it as gospel that digital technologies are harmful to young people’s mental health. But is this true? A recent study from the University of Oxford takes a closer look.
Emerging Tech

Meet Wiliot, a battery-less Bluetooth chip that pulls power from thin air

A tiny chip from a semiconductor company called Wiliot could harvest energy out of thin air, the company claims. No battery needed. The paper-thin device pulls power from ambient radio frequencies like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and cell signals.
Emerging Tech

Hexbot is a modular robot arm that does everything from drawing to playing chess

Who wouldn’t want their own personal robot arm to do everything from laser engraving to competing against you in a game of chess? That's what Hexbot, a new modular robot, promises to deliver.