There is a drone that "climbs" trees to protect them

There is a drone that "climbs" trees to protect them

From the Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research and the ETH Zurich, the… flying robot that explores the canopy

The "Hedgehog" drone can hang from the branches and turn off the engine: it was created in Switzerland by a scientific and technological collaboration between the ETH Zurich and the Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research in Birmensdorf (Photo : Gotthard Pestalozzi/WSL)
The "Hedgehog" drone can hang from the branches and turn off the engine: it was created in Switzerland by a scientific and technological collaboration between the ETH Zurich and the Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research in Birmensdorf
(Photo: Gotthard Pestalozzi/WSL)

Investigate the environmental conditions of tree crowns it requires climbing to dizzying heights or building expensive scaffolding.
Consequently, for these searches today we also rely on special drones such as those under development by a joint team of theFederal Institute research for the forest, Neve and Landscape di Birmensdorf and Zurich Polytechnic.
What happens in the woods? A yellow cylinder approaches a densely leafy maple, humming. It flies purposefully towards an arm-thick branch. Approaching, he carelessly brushes leaves and twigs. Arrived at his destination, he clings to the plant, sways for a moment and then stops, silenced.
Magazine "IEEE Robotics and Automation” recently published a detailed article regarding the exploration of trees.

Video, the stress of a Swiss forest detected by drones

The crowns of trees often manage not to touch each other, probably to allow sunlight to reach the undergrowth or to reduce the probability of parasite transmission
The crowns of trees often manage not to touch each other, probably to allow sunlight to reach the undergrowth or to reduce the probability of parasite transmission

Observing forests to protect them is very often very difficult

Forests cover about a third of the earth's surface, even in Switzerland. They are of enormous importance to the biodiversity, la climate regulation and ecological balance. To study them and protect their ecosystems, we also need treetop data. But due to their height and the leaves and branches blocking their access, they are difficult to reach. THE drones couldn't they help? Sure, but…
I drones they are perfectly capable of gathering much information, but only by flying over the woods. Furthermore, the limited life of the batteries and the annoying noise very often limit their use.
To overcome these obstacles, the researchers of the WSL di Birmensdorf and ETH di Zurich they began to develop real environmental robots, that mimic the behavior of creatures that live in the tops of trees.
They must be able to resist collisions with branches, crawl through hollows, cling to objects, take pictures or deposit sensors.
The first product of the team led by Stephen Mintchev, professor of the Zurich Polytechnic and Federal Institute research for the forest, Neve and Landscape, is "Hedgehog“, a drone that can literally cling to branches.

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View of the branches of a tree and some "origami-style" needle sets of "Hedgehog" from the camera of the drone made by ETH and WSL (Photo: Gottardo Pestalozzi/WSL)
View of tree branches and some “origami-style” needle sets from “Hedgehog” from the drone camera made by ETH and WSL
(Photo: Gotthard Pestalozzi/WSL)

The propeller stop allows discreet and longer studies over time

The drone"Hedgehog” owes its special abilities to two elements in particular: a cylindrical protective grid and a set of “origami style” needles.
The protective grid houses the propellers and allows safe flight even when contact with leaves and branches is unavoidable. It also serves as a holder for batteries, microphones, cameras and other sensors.
"Hedgehog” clings to a branch by means of specially coated movable needles. These are inspired by the Japanese paper folding technique of origami.
When the tips touch a branch, i their lateral folding edges open to adapt to the irregular surface of the branch.
Inside they have a non-slip surface that helps support the weight of the drone.
The pilot can put the aircraft into mode standby via the remote control. With the built-in cameras and microphones, the drone can unobtrusively observe tree canopy events for a longer period of time, as well as record video and audio.
At the end of the observation, the robot can be awakened and returned to the base.

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Irrigation in one of the parcels of the WSL forest research site of Pfynwald, in Valais (Photo Michèle Kaennel DobbertinWSL)
Irrigation in one of the parcels of the WSL forest research site of Pfynwald, in Valais (Photo Michèle Kaennel Dobbertin/WSL)
The logo of the Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETH)
The logo of the Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETH)
The logo of the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research (WSL)
The logo of the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research (WSL)

Many environmental robots help understand the forest ecosystem

With "Hedgehog" and other robotic drones, the joint development team ETH/WSL want to contribute to one deeper knowledge of the life of tree crowns.
These observations can serve as a basis for protective measures or decisions forestry.
Steffen Kirchgeorg developed the prototype “Hedgehog” as part of the project CYbER ( "CanopY Exploration Robots”) and built and tested it atFederal Forest Research Institute, Neve and Landscape di Birmensdorf.

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The "Hedgehog" drone can hang from the branches and turn off the engine: it was created in Switzerland by a scientific and technological collaboration between the ETH Zurich and the Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research in Birmensdorf (Photo : Gotthard Pestalozzi/WSL)
The "Hedgehog" drone can hang from the branches and turn off the engine: it was created in Switzerland by a scientific and technological collaboration between the ETH Zurich and the Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research in Birmensdorf
(Photo: Gotthard Pestalozzi/WSL)