Avocado-Shaped Robot Collects Treetop Data for Environmental Research

The robot is designed to autonomously navigate through dense foliage and one day collect environmental data on rainforests

Scarlett Evans, Assistant Editor, IoT World Today

February 6, 2024

2 Min Read
Avocado robot
Swiss National Science Foundation

A new avocado-shaped robot has been developed to autonomously navigate through rainforests and collect treetop data.

The robot, designed by a team of Swiss researchers, can descend from heights and swing around obstacles, with the ultimate goal of being deployed to various forests to gather environmental data.

"The idea behind this area of research is to get robots out of the factories and use them outdoors for environmental research," said Steffen Kirchgeorg, study co-author.

As rainforests are often densely packed with vines and trees, typical methods of data collection are limited as drones would get their rotor blades tangled in foliage, while climbing robots would be challenged by the varying kinds of branches to navigate.

“That's why we came up with the idea of trying to gain access from above,” Kirchgeorg said.

The robot’s design was inspired by spiders’ webs, fitted with a winch so it can be attached to a tree and lower itself through the branches, as well as two rotor blades so it can adjust its course of movement.

The robot also has a camera fitted to its base so it can identify and avoid obstacles on its way down. 

The robot saw positive results in real-world tests, with the team saying it "has fully mastered autonomous locomotion." Currently, the design still requires a team member to manually attach it to a tree, though the team plans to use a drone in the future to carry and deposit the robot in the treetops.

Related:Drone Collects Environmental Data From the Treetops

The team said the Avocado robot could one day be fitted with humidity and temperature sensors to monitor the microclimate or biodiversity of tree canopies or gripper arms and air filters for collecting DNA samples.

"We might even discover some new animal or plant species," Kirchgeorg said.

The project has been funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation.

About the Author(s)

Scarlett Evans

Assistant Editor, IoT World Today

Scarlett Evans is the assistant editor for IoT World Today, with a particular focus on robotics and smart city technologies. Scarlett has previous experience in minerals and resources with Mine Australia, Mine Technology and Power Technology. She joined Informa in April 2022.

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