Tiny FlyCroTug drones can open doors and pull objects 40 times their weight

Tiny new drones that can pull objects up to 40 times their own weight have been developed by scientists working in the United States and Switzerland. These drones use gripping technology to take hold of an object and to anchor themselves to surfaces in the environment, which means that they can perform complex tasks like lassoing a door handle to open it or delivering bottles of water in a rescue scenario.

The new aerial vehicles measure a few inches across and they represent a huge upgrade in lifting capabilities, as most drones today can only carry twice their weight. The new drones are equipped with winches that can raise and lower objects to allow ease of movement around a busy environment. They can even collaborate with other drones in order to maximize the amount of weight being moved.

Researchers at Stanford University and Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland have worked together to develop the weight-bearing drones, known as FlyCroTugs. The engineers were prompted by nature, taking inspiration from the feet of geckos and the behavior of insects. The idea for the tugging drones was born when Mark Cutkosky, Fletcher Jones Chair in the School of Engineering at Stanford University, and his colleagues considered how insects deal with moving relatively large objects: When a wasp approaches a piece of food that is too heavy to be carried, the wasp will drag it along the ground. This inspired the concept of a drone which transports items much heavier than itself by anchoring to a larger object. The gecko’s feet come into play when the drone must move across a smooth surface, for which they are equipped with 32 tiny metal spikes that latch onto the surface, just like a gecko does when climbing a wall.

An advantage of the small size of the drones is that they can get into tight spaces and can be safely flown close to people. This makes them suited for search and rescue missions, in which they could move debris or place cameras to help rescuers see inside dangerous environments. The next stages that the engineers are working on are autonomous controls and how to coordinate several drones at once.

Dedicated drone enthusiasts can read more about the FlyCroTugs at Science Robotics or see the EPFL’s news story.


Peloton’s tech lets truckers play follow the leader to boost fuel economy

Peloton Technology can help semi trucks save fuel by running close together on the highway. Using short-range wireless communications, the trucks get a kind of super cruise control.
Home Theater

Banish the bunny ears (and monthly bills) with these excellent HD antennas

When transitioning away from cable and satellite, finding the best HDTV antenna for your area can be touch. To help, we've compiled our picks of the best indoor HDTV antennas you can buy.

You're never too broke to enjoy the best free-to-play games

Believe it or not, free-to-play games have evolved into engaging, enjoyable experiences. Here are a few of our favorites that you can play right now, including Warframe and the perennially-popular League of Legends.
Emerging Tech

Scientists find a technique to identify electricity-producing bacteria

A new development could allow microbes to be used to run fuel cells and purify sewage water. An MIT team has developed a new microfluidic technique which can process samples of bacteria to see if they are able to produce electricity.
Emerging Tech

Why wait? Here are some CES 2019 gadgets you can buy right now

Companies come to CES to wow us with their cutting edge technology, but only a few products are slated to hit the market right away. Here is our list of the best CES 2019 tech you can buy right now.
Emerging Tech

Drones: New rules could soon allow flights over people and at night

With commercial operators in mind, the U.S. government is looking to loosen restrictions on drone flights with a set of proposals that would allow the machines greater freedom to fly over populated areas and also at night.
Emerging Tech

Yamaha’s new app lets you tune your motorcycle with a smartphone

It used to be that if you wanted to tune your motorcycle’s engine and tweak its performance, you needed specialized tools and even more specialized knowledge. Yamaha’s new Power Tuner app changes that.
Emerging Tech

Short film celebrates New Yorker’s amazing robot costumes

New York City resident Peter Kokis creates stunning robot costumes out of household trash. His designs are huge, heavy, and extremely intricate, and never fail to turn heads when he's out and about.
Emerging Tech

In a first for humankind, China is growing plants on the moon

Having recently landed a probe on the far side of the moon, China announced that it managed to grow the first plant on the moon, too. Here's why that matters for deep space travel.
Emerging Tech

Ford’s sweaty robot bottom can simulate 10 years of seat use in mere days

Ford has developed 'Robutt,' a sweaty robot bottom that's designed to simulate the effects of having a pair of human buttocks sitting on its car seats for thousands of hours. Check it out.
Emerging Tech

CES 2019 recap: All the trends, products, and gadgets you missed

CES 2019 didn’t just give us a taste of the future, it offered a five-course meal. From 8K and Micro LED televisions to smart toilets, the show delivered with all the amazing gadgetry you could ask for. Here’s a look at all the big…
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.