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Artificial intelligence

Wasp-inspired robots can lift 40 times their own weight—and work together to open doors

October 24, 2018

A new class of tiny flying robots can stick to surfaces and pull heavy objects many times their body weight, according to a new paper in Science Robotics.

How it works: The palm-size robots, dubbed FlyCroTugs, are equipped with microspines (adhesives inspired by geckos’ feet) plus a winch to pull in an object up to 40 times their body weight. The team, led by Matthew Estrada from Stanford University, was inspired by wasps’ ability to carry prey many times their weight using a similar method. They also demonstrated that two robots can work together to open a heavy door, as in the video above.

Potential applications? For now, they are only suitable for brief, short-range operations. However, thanks to their knack for navigating small spaces, the robots could be used in the future for search and rescue, or to help perform tasks remotely (Estrada gave the example of closing a valve inside a factory). Multiple robots could even be trained to group together and cooperate on tasks. 

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Illustration by Rose Wong

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