Researchers develop wall-climbing robots

Step aside, Spidey! This robot is built to scale the side of a building

A research organization has developed a new technology that enables some robots to scale walls.

Wall-climbing robots could be a boon for the US military, which could use them on reconnaissance or other missions in war zones, said Philip von Guggenberg, director of business development for SRI International, a nonprofit research and development organization that created the technology. The independent group has received some funding from DARPA, the technology research arm of the Pentagon.

Von Guggenberg said that the new electrical adhesive technology called compliant electroadhesion, provides an electrically controllable way to stick machines to a wall. Since positive and negative charges attract, SRI researchers induce negative charges into the wall being climbed, while at the same time imposing positive charges in the robot, using an on-board battery source.

That adhesion lets the robots, using either feet or tracks, scale a vertical wall. They can even climb walls covered in dust and debris, or made out of concrete, wood, steel, glass, drywall, and brick. However, they have a harder time with damp surfaces, von Guggenberg noted. He also added that regular robots, especially those with tracks, can be retrofitted with the technology and turned into wall climbers.

When the charges are shut off, the adhesion ends.

"The government is interested in deploying robots that can climb walls and then create a wireless network or lay sensors to send information back," said von Guggenberg. "The challenge in those [front line] environments is to deploy things. If you're trying to deploy a wireless network, the range is greater if it's higher up. The alternative is to have a soldier go out and climb a wall to set something up."

Von Guggenberg would not say if the government has made any commitment to use the technology. He did, however, say that they're six to nine months away from being able to use the technology in a real environment.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Sharon Gaudin

Computerworld
Show Comments

Essentials

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?