DARPA Gives Helicopters Robotic Legs

Posted on September 20, 2015

DARPA's Mission Adaptive Rotor (MAR) program is giving robotic legs to helicopters. DARPA says these foldable robot legs could enable future helicopters to take off and land nearly anywhere including angled, irregular and moving surfaces.

The robotic landing gear replaces the standard landing gear in the helicopter. The gear can be folded up next to the helicopter's fuselage during flight. Each of the four legs features a force-sensitive contact sensor in its foot. The adaptive landing system can use this sensor data in real-time to ascertain the angle required to keep the helicopter level during a landing attempt.

DARPA program manager Ashish Bagai says in a statement, "The equipment-mounted on an otherwise unmodified, unmanned helicopter-successfully demonstrated the ability to land and take off from terrain that would be impossible to operate from with standard landing gear."

Bagai says some of the possible benefits of the technology include a reduction in hard landings. Landings could also take place on ships during violent seas and on sloping terrain of up to 20 degrees. Bagai says the technology provides a "significant increase in capabilities with only a modest increase in gear weight."

The helicopter leg technology is currently undergoing continued development by the Georgia Institute of Technology.

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