In the video above, we meet SCAMP, a new robot from the Biomimetics and Dextrous Manipulation Lab at Stanford University. SCAMP stands for Stanford Climbing and Aerial Maneuvering Platform, and its appearance and behavior make it resemble a mosquito—albeit minus the biting and itching.
What makes the flying SCAMP particularly impressive and bug-like is that it can land and perch on vertical surfaces like concrete, stucco, or wood walls—before climbing them, and then taking off back into flight. It can even catch itself if it falls.
As far as practical applications, SCAMP is designed for outdoor work in places like earthquake zones, where there’s no usable flat surface on which a drone could land. It’s not uncommon for walls to remain standing amid rubble in disaster areas, and an appropriately equipped SCAMP could perch on one to track seismic activity, for example, or to serve as a link in an emergency communications network. Its climbing capability would also allow it to get to an optimal location, rather than attempting to reposition itself through flying—which can be especially difficult in inclement weather.
Because of its bug-like appendages, SCAMP doesn’t need a motion-capture system or remote computation to land on a wall and climb it. It instead uses its tail to pivot into place, and a rotor’s thrust to flatten itself against a wall. Once the tiny spikes in its feet get a grip, the rotor switches off and SCAMP can begin climbing. If it slips, the rotor reengages to flatten SCAMP back against the wall, allowing it to continue on its way. To take flight again, SCAMP pushes its “take-off spine” against the surface to push off.
Very clever and very cool.