Ironically, the very situations in which helicopters can be the most helpful are the trickiest types of environments for them to land in and take off from. That's why the Georgia Institute of Technology is developing adaptive Robotic Landing Gear, originally funded through DARPA's Mission Adaptive Rotor (MAR) program. As seen in the video below, an integrated force-sensitive contact sensor at the bottom of each of the four articulated, jointed legs determines in real time the appropriate angle to ensure the helicopter stays level and the rotor doesn't strike the landing area.
“The equipment—mounted on an otherwise unmodified, unmanned helicopter—successfully demonstrated the ability to land and take off from terrain that would be impossible to operate from with standard landing gear,” said Ashish Bagai, DARPA program manager. With only a modest increase in weight, this tricked out, insect-like landing gear will not only help helicopters land and take off from stormy seas, craggy surfaces and sloping terrain, it's also rated to reduce the risk of damage during hard landings by a factor of five.
The robot apocalypse may be nigh, after all.
Photos by Defense Advanced Research Project Agency