Yale Aerial Manipulator Flying Robotic Hand

The Yale Aerial Manipulator is essentially a flying robotic hand that can autonomously hover over an object and then fly down and grab it. The Yale Aerial Manipulator was created at the GRAB Lab at Yale University (GRAB stands for Grasping and Manipulation, Rehabilitation Robotics and Biomechanics).


( Yale Aerial Manipulator )

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.

Science fiction fans may recall the laser-powered "imps" or sub-trees based on the Christmas bush motile robot jointly conceived by Austrian roboticist Has Moravec and science-fiction writer/engineer Robert Forward.

Here's an excerpt from Forward's 1985 novel Rocheworld:

The "hands" of the Christmas Bush have capabilities that go way beyond that of the human hand. The Christmas Bush can stick a "hand" inside a delicate piece of equipment, and using its lasers as a light source and its detectors as eyes, rearrange the parts inside for a near instantaneous repair. The Christmas Bush also has the ability to detach portions of itself to make smaller motiles. These can walk up the walls and along the ceilings with the tiny cilia holding onto microscopic cracks in the surface. The smaller twigs on the Christmas Bush are capable of very rapid motion. In free fall, these rapidly beating twigs allow the motile to propel itself through the air.

This robot also bears more than a passing resemblance (flying robotic hands-wise) to the illustration showing the robot tracking devices from Philip K. Dick's 1960 novel Vulcan's Hammer.

At least one reader is reminded of the Prowler seeker droids from Star Wars.

The creators of the GRAB Lab say that their "proof-of-concept system opens the door to future sophisticated aerial manipulation capabilities." They say that it could be used for "object retrieval, highspeed courier services, intelligence gathering, and explosives disposal." Why not just admit that you wanted to build a flying robotic hand?

See a short video at Technology Review and find out more at the GRAB Lab.

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