DALER is a new robot designed to look like a bat, which is capable of walking and flying. The device was designed to be able to access various terrains, allowing the craft to conduct a wide variety of search and rescue operations.
The Deployable Air-Land Exploration Robot (DALER) is patterned after vampire bats. Wings of the robot are constructed of fabric stretched over a flexible skeletal structure. This allows the limbs, known as whegs, to play the roles of both wings and legs.
Developers hope that DALER can be used to fly over an area to assess situations, after which the vehicle can land and walk into areas not accessible to other robotic devices.
One of the challenges facing designers of a craft that can both fly and walk involves the surface area of wings. A larger wing makes flying easier, but the material needs to be folded up, or otherwise stashed away, when walking mode commences, or the robot could trip over its own wings. Wings of vampire bats (Desmodus rotundus) were the inspiration for the folding mechanism utilized by DALER.
"To design the robot, the team had to first designate the primary mode of locomotion -- in this case flight, as the DALER will cover the longest distances this way. The wings were then adapted for walking, taking into consideration the need to not add extra weight when the DALER is in flight mode," Linda Seward of NCCR Robotics wrote for RoboHub.
Ludovic Daler of the Laboratory of Intelligent Systems at EPFL in Lausanne, Switzerland, developed the first version of DALER, announced in 2013.
"While many dual-locomotion systems already exist, most of these simply add specialized hardware for each locomotion method used (such as wings and wheels), adding both infrastructure and weight to the overall system, and hindering flight performance. Instead, DALER uses just one structure -- the wing -- to both walk and fly," Daler and Hallie Siegel wrote in a press release for the original robot.
Wingerons are used to help control DALER during flight and propel the bio-inspired robot forward on the ground as they rotate. The design was based on the wingtips of vampire bats.
The newest version of DALER can fly at speeds of around 45mph in the air and roughly two-and-a-half inches per second on the ground. While switching between modes, wings of the vehicle are able to effectively fold and unfold, an ability not available in the initial model.
One significant advantage of an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that can also travel on ground is that the craft can reorient itself after landing, preparing for takeoff. Landing fixed-wing UAVs in many areas can be rough and are often prevented from taking off after its mission is complete. Further development of the DALER system could allow the craft to land, conduct surveillance for the ground, orient itself for a return flight, and take off.
Development of the newest model of DALER was profiled in the journal Bioinspiration & Biomimetics.