The U.S. Defense Department’s research division DARPA recently introduced to the public the four-legged helicopter that no longer requires a flat and regular surface to land on.
DARPA engineers explained that despite helicopters being able to hover at low altitudes, to land and leave the ground vertically, and reach tight places that other aircrafts can only dream about, they cannot land on uneven, moving, and steep surfaces such as ships on course, disaster-affected areas, or some military targets.
But the U.S. military claims that it has a solution to the craft’ limitations – foldable, articulated, robotic legs that can be hidden inside the fuselage while the aircraft is flying and be deployed when it tries to land.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which recently announced that it has managed to design the world’s first prosthetic hand that can restore a near natural sense of touch to amputees, plans to use the force-sensitive sensors used in the artificial limb on helicopters, too.
The agency unveiled the weird helicopter on Sept. 10 and said that the conventional landing skids would be replaced by two pairs of robotic legs. which are not fixed. They can adjust to almost any type of terrain and surface, and can be folded in mid-air.
DARPA team thinks that the new vehicle may help the U.S. military and emergency crews reach faster conflict zones and affected areas including natural-disaster areas The mechanical legs are equipped with sensors that can sense the pressure the helicopter is applying to the ground. The data gathered by those sensors prompts and internal processor to calculate the right angle and extend when trying to unfold the props.
The DOD research department even released a short video showing how the four-legged helicopter may look like. The aircraft used in the video is just a prototype but the final product will look and work very much the same like it.
In the demo, the tiny helicopter looks like a giant insect with for robotic legs that it tries to arrange to grant the body of the aircraft the necessary stability before making a landing. When the craft is in the air it can fold its ‘legs’ next to its belly.
Ashish Bagai, senior researcher involved in the DARPA project, explained that the model used in the video is an unaltered helicopter equipped with special ‘landing gear’ aka legs to land and take off from surfaces conventional choppers cannot operate on.
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