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Drones with freakin' CLAWS grab objects like eagles

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Is there such a thing as learning too many lessons from nature? If you find the exploits of quad-copter researchers spooky, don't watch the very latest video demonstration from the University of Pennsylvania's aptly-named GRASP laboratory.

Looking at how raptors like sea-eagles can catch fish without losing control or crashing, the boffins-cum-toymakers have added a talon to a quad-copter, and programmed the device to grab a target object in a flyover. Here's the video:

The researchers say they were inspired both by the design of an eagle's talon, and by how the bird sweeps its talons forwards and backwards during its attack, to minimise the relative velocity between claw and victim.

Thankfully, the quad-copter shown in the video isn't operating on its own, yet. The researchers had to do a fair amount of offline work with a motion capture system to get the swoop-and-grasp manoeuvre working. So the next step will be to get the quad-copter operating using only its on-board camera.

The research paper is here. ®

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