Engineering Minute

Engineering Minute – Flying Robot Repairs Skyscrapers

A team of researchers at the Chinese Academy of Sciences have developed a novel flying robot that can repair and inspect skyscrapers. The robots are safer and more efficient than traditional methods of inspection and repairing buildings. The team recently presented their finds at the 2019 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems. 


flying robot repairs skyscrapers
The aerial writing task. CREDIT: Chinese Academy of Sciences

"How to control the force is considered the most difficult problem, since flying robots usually are sensitive to external force," says MENG Xiangdong, lead designer of the robot. "In the near future, we might see an extensive use of this new system in large infrastructure maintenance, and other special applications, such as scientific sampling."


From the Chinese Academy of Sciences article: "Compared with general wall-climbing robots, it is capable of avoiding obstacles and even jumping over grooves on wall surfaces. It can also conduct interactive operations while in flight. Importantly, it has been designed so that the whole system’s contact force can be controlled precisely without any force sensors. 

The research team also conducted experiments to test the system. For example, the researchers fixed a light switch to a wall, then had the robot press the switch to turn the light on and off. The robot was able to safely and smoothly operate the switch via precise force control. In another experiment, the robot smoothly moved along a glass wall, exerting fixed pressure. The robot then used a pen attached to the end of the aerial manipulator to write 'SIA' – for Shenyang Institute of Automation – on the glass wall."


Read more about the robot that repairs skyscrapers at the Chinese Academy of Sciences

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