Skip to Content

Flying Robotic Hands

A helicopter equipped with a robotic hand picks up small objects.

A robotic hand attached to a small helicopter can successfully and autonomously grip objects while the helicopter is hovering, as demonstrated by a group at Yale University led by Aaron Dollar, one of this year’s TR35s.

The helicopter hand, dubbed the Yale Aerial Manipulator, could be used in spots that are difficult for ground robots to get to, such as high or roughly terrained places. It could also be used to pick up bombs or packages, or even as a form of delivery, moving packages in urban environments where trucks would have a hard time, suggests Paul Pounds, first author of the work.

The hand helicopter can carry objects that weigh up to two kilograms, at speeds reaching 130 kilometers an hour. The robotic hand, which is made of a flexible plastic, is operated by a single motor that controls four fingers. The simple, lightweight design of the hand also absorbs vibrations when the hand grips an object, letting the helicopter hover stably.

The video below shows the flying grasper successfully grasping objects while flying.

The researchers will present their results at the ASME Dynamic Systems and Control Conference next month. They will detail how the helicopter hand was able to pick up a wooden block successfully in 20 grasp attempts, even when the hand was not positioned over the block’s center.

Keep Reading

Most Popular

This startup wants to copy you into an embryo for organ harvesting

With plans to create realistic synthetic embryos, grown in jars, Renewal Bio is on a journey to the horizon of science and ethics.

VR is as good as psychedelics at helping people reach transcendence

On key metrics, a VR experience elicited a response indistinguishable from subjects who took medium doses of LSD or magic mushrooms.

This nanoparticle could be the key to a universal covid vaccine

Ending the covid pandemic might well require a vaccine that protects against any new strains. Researchers may have found a strategy that will work.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.