Drone can 'snatch' object on the fly

March 14, 2013 at 9:14 PM

PHILADELPHIA, March 14 (UPI) -- Drones may soon go from being eyes in the sky to "look and grab" vehicles using robotic arms to snag objects from the ground on the fly, U.S. researchers say.

Inspired by the way a bald eagle can swoop down and grab a fish from the water with its claws, robotics scientist at the University of Pennsylvania have developed a fast-acting, talon-like gripping arm for a small unmanned aerial vehicles.

Studying the birds' technique, the researchers have copied a trick that allows the bird more time to fasten on to its prey; the eagles sweep their legs and claws backwards as their talons close on a fish, eliminating the need to slow down.

Penn state researcher Justin Thomas and his colleagues have attached a three-fingered claw to a 4-inch motorized leg below the drone's center of mass, allowing it to snatch a stationary object as it flies by.

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