April 18, 2024

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Technology: Drone explores biodiversity

Technology: Drone explores biodiversity

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Recording biodiversity in remote areas is often difficult. Researchers from Switzerland have now developed a cockroach-style drone that can penetrate treetops and weave its way through branches.

The drone can push and slide through obstacles. This is an important step towards better surveying of biodiversity in remote areas in the future.

Environmental monitoring in areas with dense vegetation represents a major challenge for science, according to a statement from the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research (WSL). Although it is possible to take samples from individual branches, the research team says it has not yet been possible to go deeper into the treetops.

Smart drone with sensitivity

Flexible obstacles such as branches pose a particular challenge because they cause the drone to shake. The WSL team was looking for a lead author for this issue Emmanuel Okoni Researchers from ETH Zurich and the University of Pisa in Italy have come up with a solution. They found what they were looking for in the world of insects, in cockroaches. The body structure of cockroaches is streamlined and made of low-friction material.

Scientists transferred these characteristics of cockroaches to the drone, as published in the specialized magazine “Nature CommunicationsTo report. The researchers also equipped the drone with sensors distributed throughout the body to be able to detect contact with the environment. In order for the drone to be able to respond to these communications, it also receives haptic feedback.

Initial tests are promising

In initial tests, the cockroach drone was successful: it was able to push away and overtake bare branches as well as branches with leaves. However, with a non-streamlined body or high-friction material, the drone in the experiment got stuck.

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In the next step, the researchers want to improve their drones further. For example, it must be able to respond to several obstacles at the same time. The research team sees potential future uses for this drone not only in biodiversity monitoring, but also in precision agriculture or in off-road search and rescue operations.