The Swiss Times - Swiss News in English

Swiss researchers build drone modeled on cockroaches

Inspired by cockroaches, Swiss researchers have developed a new drone. It can push obstacles away and glide through them. In future, it will be used to record biodiversity in remote areas.

Environmental monitoring in areas with dense vegetation is a major challenge for science, according to a press release issued by the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research (WSL) on Wednesday. Although it is possible to take samples from individual branches, it has not yet been possible to penetrate further into the treetops.

According to the researchers, the biggest difficulty is that the branches are flexible and cause the drone to vibrate.

The WSL researchers led by first author Emanuele Aucone, together with researchers from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETH Zurich) and the University of Pisa (I), have been looking for a solution to this problem. They found the solution in the body structure of cockroaches: it is streamlined and consists of low-friction material.

Successful tests

They transferred this to the drone, which they presented in the journal "Nature Communications". The researchers also equipped the drone with intelligence distributed over the entire body, as the WSL explained. The drone was given haptic feedback so that it could react to contact with its surroundings.

In initial tests, the cockroach drone was successful: it was able to push branches with and without leaves away and get past them. With a non-streamlined body or a material with high friction, however, the drone got stuck in the experiment.

In the next step, the researchers want to improve their drone even further. For example, it should be able to react to several obstacles at the same time.


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