Moritz Graule, a 25-year old Mechanical Engineering PhD student at MIT and member of the Swiss Study Foundation since 2010, wrote his master’s thesis at Harvard’s Wyss Institute as a visiting student from ETH Zurich. With his co-workers, he developed a method that enables small drones to attach to elevated structures using electrostatic adhesion. The robotic platform he modified for the experiments, called the RoboBee, weighs only 84mg and flies by flapping two independently controllable wings. In a recent publication in Science, his team presented the successful perching of this robotic insect on a broad range of overhangs, including a natural leaf. This is a crucial step towards future applications of insect-scale aerial robots, as it could increase their energy-limited mission time from a few minutes to several hours.
For more information, see: Graule, M. A., et al. “Perching and takeoff of a robotic insect on overhangs using switchable electrostatic adhesion.” Science 352.6288 (2016): 978-982.