Chinese team develop flying robot

By Charlotte King

In light of the rising number of high rise buildings and skyscrapers across the globe and the dangers that come with the repair and maintenance of these buildings, researchers at the Shenyang Institute of Automation (SIA) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences have designed a flying robot as a possible solution.


At the 2019 International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, an international conference on robotics and intelligent systems held in early November, the researchers reported that they had developed a new flying robot, representing a major advance in safety and efficiency of building maintenance.


Traditionally, the regular inspection of high-rise buildings with “glass curtain walls” has been conducted by humans, but this process is proving “very dangerous, costly and inefficient”. Wall-climbing robots have attempted to take over the maintenance of these skyscrapers, however, they were incapable of avoiding obstacles and travelling smoothly over grooves on wall surfaces; these are feats the new flying model can achieve.


Moreover, the robot can conduct “interactive operations” while in flight, allowing it to clean these glass curtain walls itself.


According to the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the flying robot has been designed so that the system can be controlled precisely without any force sensors at all and is known for its “enhanced flexibility” and “strong mission adaptability”.


To test the system, the team of researchers carried out several experiences. For example, they fixed a light switch to a wall and had the robot press the switch to turn the light on and off, and they got the robot to move along a glass wall, as it would if it were to be used to maintain high-rise buildings.


Meng Xiangdong, the robot’s designer, has said: “In the near future, we might see an extensive use of this new system in large infrastructure maintenance, and other special applications, such as scientific sampling.”


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