November 24, 2013      

Typically, UAVs are ideal for long-distance task?surveillance, monitoring, small-load delivery. But now a group of German roboticists are making flying robots a little more hands on.

The German Aerospace Center (DLR) presented a paper, ?First Analysis and Experiments in Aerial Manipulation Using Fully Actuated Redundant Robot Arm,? a few weeks ago at IROS 2013, exploring the potential expansion of UAV applications when paired with manipulator robots.

A simple prototype has already been created; DLR roboticists connected an inverted 7-DOF KUKA industrial arm to the fuselage of an autonomous helicopter by cardan-joint. Currently, the robot can detect and pick up a a pole sticking up from the ground?seems simple, but every movement the arm makes changes the center of gravity of the robot, as well as the helicopter, and complicates the basic task.

Though it?s a small step, the DLR has big plans for a fleet of these ?armed? helicopters, with the goal of cooperative teams interacting to tackle vertical construction and repair. Other potential applications include installing sensor nodes, taking water and soil samples, and power line maintenance?of particular interest are the tasks that could decrease the risk of human worker injury. Ideally, the helicopters would come in units with both 5-foot and 10-foot diameter rotors, with about a 10kg payload.

See the prototype in action: