Flying insect-like robot Gimball can crash and recover

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Media captionCo-creator Adrien Briod said the Gimball was tested in a forest, where it collided with trees

An insect-like flying rescue robot that can bounce off trees and buildings has been revealed by its creators.

Gimball has been developed to be used in situations that are hazardous to humans.

The robot is designed to be able to deal with crashes, and to right itself after a collision.

Gimball has a protective spherical roll-cage, and is mounted on pivots to stay upright.

The flying robot, which bounces off walls, moves in a similar way to a mosquito.

Gimball was in part inspired by the way insects fly, co-creator Adrien Briod told the BBC.

"Usually robots need to move around obstacles, so we thought it would be interesting to allow it to sustain collisions," Mr Briod said.

The drone, described as "crash happy", was designed and built by a team in Switzerland at the Ecole Polytechnique Federerale de Lausanne (EPFL).

The robot was developed for use in disaster situations, such as entering a building on fire, or after a radiation leak.

Normally flying robots are taken out of action by a major collision, but the designers did not think the problem could be solved by adding more sensors.

To keep Gimball lightweight, the research team decided to allow the robot to ricochet off obstacles instead.

Image caption The Gimball drone has been designed to be resilient in disaster situations, says co-creator Adrien Briod

Staying upright

The robot has a rotating flexible frame that lets it bounce off anything that it hits in a chaotic environment.

To stay upright, Gimball has a gyroscopic system that includes an accelerometer, the same type of sensor as used in smartphones to let the phone know which way is up.

The battery-driven robot has two propellers, and is steered by fins. It is fitted with a motion sensor, a camera, an altimeter, a magnetic compass and a micro-controller processor.

The 34cm (13 inch) , 370g (13oz) drone can lift weights of up to 30g, so can carry gas or radioactivity sensors, Mr Briod said.

The robot can be remotely controlled, but Mr Briod aims to eventually incorporate artificial intelligence capabilities into Gimball to allow it to accomplish complex tasks by itself.

The team that built Gimball at the Laboratory of Intelligent Systems at EPFL included Mr Briod and engineer Mariusz Kornatowski.

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