Swiss Researchers Develop Innovative ‘Cockroach Drone’ for Forest Canopy Exploration

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Swiss researchers have developed a groundbreaking new drone inspired by the body structure of cockroaches. This innovative drone is designed to navigate through dense vegetation and explore remote areas of the forest canopy, which has been a significant challenge for scientists in the past.

Overcoming Obstacles in Environmental Monitoring

Environmental monitoring in areas with dense vegetation has been a major hurdle for researchers. While it is possible to take samples from individual branches, penetrating further into the canopy has been nearly impossible due to the flexible nature of the branches, which cause the drone to vibrate.

The Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research (WSL), in collaboration with researchers from ETH Zurich and the University of Pisa, sought to find a solution to this problem. They found inspiration in the streamlined body structure of cockroaches, which consists of low-friction material.

The Cockroach Drone: A Breakthrough in Design

The researchers applied the cockroach’s body structure to their drone design, which they presented in the journal Nature Communications. The drone was also equipped with spatial intelligence throughout its body, allowing it to react when it comes into contact with its surroundings through haptic feedback.

Initial tests of the cockroach drone have been successful. The drone was able to push away branches with and without leaves and move past them. However, when equipped with a non-streamlined body or a material with higher friction, the drone got stuck during the experiment.

Future Developments and Applications

The researchers plan to further improve their drone in the next step of development. They aim to enable the drone to react to multiple obstacles simultaneously.

This innovative drone has the potential to revolutionize environmental monitoring in remote areas with dense vegetation. By allowing scientists to explore the forest canopy more effectively, the cockroach drone could lead to new discoveries and a better understanding of biodiversity in these hard-to-reach locations.

The development of the cockroach drone by researchers in Switzerland marks a significant breakthrough in environmental monitoring technology. By drawing inspiration from the body structure of cockroaches, the researchers have created a drone capable of navigating through dense vegetation and exploring the forest canopy. With further improvements, this innovative drone could provide scientists with unprecedented access to remote areas, leading to new insights into biodiversity and the environment.

Photo courtesy of WSL.

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