Researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign say they're the first to create a wing-flapping micro air vehicle (MAV) that can land autonomously by perching like a bird. The researchers say that while it was the challenge of duplicating such a complicated and precise maneuver that drove them, such a robot could be pretty useful in confined spaces. The MAV has articulating wings with multiple control surfaces that have to work in concert to create the lift and control for the perch. "Of all maneuvers executed by flapping wing aircraft in a gliding phase, a perched landing is arguably the most challenging," said Aditya Paranjape, a postdoctoral scholar working on this project."
While birds make it look easy, the researchers had to break it into pieces and write all the code to get the wings to do the right things. "A typical perching maneuver consists of two phases -- a gliding phase to bring the bird to a suitable position with respect to the landing spot, and a rapid pitch up (usually to a post-stall angle of attack) accompanied by an instantaneous climb and rapid deceleration," the school said in a news release." Paranjape is working on the project with Soon-Jo Chung, an assistant professor in the school's department of aerospace engineering. The project is based on Paranjape's doctoral thesis.