In the list of the most unusual drones, this drone might have just taken the lead. Although unusual, the S-MAD is truly a fascinating drone. It is a fixed wing autonomous drone which can not only land on an upright wall but also take off from the same. The S-MAD was created by researchers at Canada’s University of Sherbrooke. This drone was also inspired by birds who have last-minute perching abilities and the scientists at Sherbrooke decided to infuse the bird-like ability into modern UAVs.
The task of landing a drone on a wall wasn’t easy. Apparently, researchers had to perform more than thousands of test flights to get the exact perching distance, speed and angle. Firstly the S-MAD’s wall range detection sensor comes into play. The drone flies towards a wall at 7-9 meters/sec and then a laser based sensor detects the surface and slows the drone to 1-3 meters/sec. It is during this time the drone starts shifting to a vertical position by applying thrust upwards to stay in the tilted position. The drone’s suspension is engaged and it absorbs any shock on impact, then the drone’s microfiber feet clings onto the surface of the wall and finally the brakes are applied along with the shutting down of propellers. S-MAD’s researchers claim that this would work on a variety of surfaces.
Some of the most practical usage of such types of drones could be in monitoring an earthquake affected area or building inspections. Apart from the industrial and commercial purposes the S-MAD could prove to be a vital part of military missions of espionage and stealth. By remaining dormant on enemy territory and camouflaged in bricks, concrete and dirt, the S-MAD would aid any kind of tactical operation.
Researchers of the University of Sherbrooke presented the Sherbrook Multimodal Autonomous Drone (S-MAD) at the Living Machine 2017 conference at Stanford University, where it won the “Best Robotics Paper Award.” The S-MAD is still a prototype and is still undergoing development in order to inculcate features like self-repositioning.
Take a look at the S-MAD’s bird-like perching capabilities: