Robo mechanic, can fix and re-fuel on flight

A flying robot that is equipped with a lift and repaired his colleagues? This is the dream of the engineers at the German Center for Aviation and Astronautics (DLR).Engineers of the DLR Institute of Robotics and Mechatronics from upper Pfaffendorf is managed for the first time to integrate an industrial robot gripper with seven degrees of freedom in an autonomously flying helicopter system. And to what end? The robot should fly to faulty inspection robots, driving with tapes of kilometer-long pipelines, and fix them.

Flying robots to learn and repair defective inspection robot

How works the flight robot, developed by the engineers in the framework of the EU project of Arcas: the double rotor helicopter flies with GPS autonomously to the job site.

Drone mechaniccanfix and re-fuel on flight
The gripper of the robot comes from the manufacturer KUKA. He has seven degrees of freedom and back with force torque sensors, when he accidentally touches objects in the environment. Photo: DLR

Once there he enabled a precise image processing system based on multiple built-in cameras. The flying robot thus recognizes the position of the defective inspection robot and attacks him in the current state of development up to a centimeter exactly.

Drone mechanic-can fix and re-fuel on flight
The flying robot can just access defective inspection robot on a centimeter and transport to a safe place. Later he should repair them. Photo: DLR

If the robot weighs no more than eight kilograms, the drone it then can fly in a safe place and there repair even at later stages of development. The repair, to the vision of the DLR engineers, should be even possible when the drone of the inspection robot hovers.

For this the developers have built already so-called force torque sensors. Make sure that the robotic arm automatically goes back when he accidentally touches objects into the environment during use. Also, the developed algorithms combine control of the lift with the control of the helicopter. According to the DLR which minimizes the mutual influence, which the stability of the overall system and ensures the high precision of the intervention.

Grippers could help build of a moon station

The DLR engineers see other uses for their gripping system. Multiple grippers could repair defective satellite in outer space, for example, from mobile platforms or help with the construction of a settlement on the moon. The mathematical and technological questions are very similar in these cases. New technology was only the beginning of new opportunities.