A lightweight flying robot can attach to and take off from objects in the environment by controlling electrostatic adhesion.
Moritz Graule and Robert Wood at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and their colleagues designed the insect-sized robot (pictured) to suspend from overhangs, such as those on trees and buildings. The top of the device has a patch containing copper electrodes. Switching on the voltage between the electrodes induces opposing charges on the surface of a nearby target, generating an electrostatic attraction. Switching off the voltage releases the robot. The device can cling to a variety of surfaces, including glass, wood and leaves.
The authors suggest that this mechanism could help small aerial robots to conserve their energy and stay aloft for longer periods.