Scientists Have Built a Drone That Shoots 'Spider-Man' Style Webs

Monday, 09 October 2017 - 6:58PM
Technology
Robotics
Monday, 09 October 2017 - 6:58PM
Scientists Have Built a Drone That Shoots 'Spider-Man' Style Webs
YouTube/IEEE Spectrum / Sony
The problem of relying on a teenager who can do whatever a spider can to patrol and police New York is that eventually, if Spider-Man has a math test or a gym class, Doc Ock can build whatever weird creepy science experiment he's working on and destroy the entire city.

Thankfully, science has now provided a new, more efficient alternative than waiting for a real teenager to acquire spider powers. First, we had drones with their own Spidey-Sense, and now, we can also get drones to shoot webs.

Okay, so perhaps the SpiderMAV's prehensile webs aren't designed for use against thieves of any size. Instead, the drone can launch magnetic ropes for stabilization, allowing it to anchor itself during heavy wind in order to ensure that it isn't blown off course. Which, as you can see, heavily resemble Spider-Man's web shooters:



Thanks to the somewhat flimsy nature of quadcopters, it takes a lot of effort to keep these kinds of drones hovering on the spot when faced with any kind of external pressure - learning to counter such buffeting forces can be a real pain that takes a lot of resources. Researchers at the Aerial Robotics Laboratory of Imperial College London have instead opted for the far simpler approach of simply building a flying robot with magnetic ropes that serve the same purpose as a sticky web-shooter.

It's theorized that this technology could allow drones to be more useful in extreme weather conditions, helping them to stay on-task even in fierce winds that would otherwise require them to return to the ground. Or it could use it to trap dragonfly drones to eat for lunch, but that's not really its intended function.

The team behind SpiderMAV have recently presented a paper, entitled SpiderMAV: Perching and Stabilizing Micro Aerial Vehicles with Bio-inspired Tensile Anchoring System, at a conference in Vancouver. The team claims that the drone, which can fire a web over a distance of up to 25 meters, is inspired by the Darwin's Bark spider, which similarly shoots out webs.



The research is in its infancy at present - the SpiderMAV currently can't sustain an awful lot of buffeting, in large part because the magnets used to secure it to surfaces are still fairly weak. But the team expects that this proof of concept could help lead the way to webswinging robots that are capable of enduring a far greater pull from natural environments.

Here's hoping that the scientists manage to find a way to increase the usefulness of SpiderMAV's unique technology - and that they do so before this poor robot runs afoul of a similar vulture drone that looks very much like one of Spidey's villains. As it currently stands, the PD6B-AW could probably tear SpiderMAV in half if it wanted to.
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