Researchers at ETH Zürich’s Environmental Robotics lab have announced that they are working on an Avocado-shaped prototype robot for environmental monitoring.
The bot, named Avocado, has been designed to mimic abseiling spiders and is equipped with a winch and rotors to lower itself through the canopy and gather data on life in the treetops.
The winch is housed within the upper section of its 3D-printed frame, with two ducted three-blade props located side by side in its girth below. This gives it the outward appearance of a large avocado.
Where drones are too large to go, Avocado can be mounted to an anchor drone flying above the otherwise inaccessible area before being secured high in the treetop, the research team said in a statement.
From there, the robot can lower itself through the canopy and navigate through the branches.
A pair of ducted fans built into the body of the robot provides the thrust needed to rotate and pivot around branches or other obstacles as it descends.
What’s more, the design allows the robot to bring various measuring instruments along with it, such as environmental sensors, a camera or even a gripper for collecting samples.
A spokesperson for ETH Zurich and the Swiss Federal Institute for forest, snow and landscape research in Birmensdorf said: “The idea behind this area of research is to get robots out of the factories and use them outdoors for environmental research.”
The Swiss National Science Foundation funded the project, and the research team is part of an ETH group that has made it to the finals of the XPrize Rainforest competition with a share of the US$10m (£7.95m) prize pot.