DARPA Put Robot Legs On A Helicopter Drone

This MAR Lander Is Bound For Earth

DARPA MAR Lander
DARPA MAR Lander
Screenshot by author, from YouTube

If takeoffs and landings are the trickiest parts of flight, then landing at sea, especially in choppy weather, is quite possibly the hardest landing this side of space. One way to improve the outcome of landings at sea is to give pilots more training and experience. Another, explored by DARPA, is to change how the vehicle itself lands. What if, instead of using fixed, rigid landing gear, a helicopter could land on flexible legs? Here’s how the concept behind DARPA’s Mission Adaptive Rotor program is supposed to work:

And here’s how it actually lands, on an unmanned helicopter:

Flexible legs mean even when it lands on an uneven surface, the helicopter is stable. In flight, these robot legs fold up alongside the copter's body, giving the appearance of an oversized insect. here's how DARPA describes the breakthrough:

As part of its effort to provide such a breakthrough capability, DARPA has conducted an experimental demonstration of a novel robotic landing gear system. The adaptive system replaces standard landing gear with four articulated, jointed legs that are able to fold up next to the helicopter’s fuselage while in flight and are equipped with force-sensitive contact sensors in their feet. During landing, each leg extends and uses its sensors to determine in real time the appropriate angle to assume to ensure that the helicopter stays level and minimize any risk of the rotor touching the landing area.

Helicopters with legs like this could land on grades of up to 20 degrees, as well as rough, boulder-strewn terrain. For just a little extra weight on the copter, it gives them a real leg up in landing.

Watch the full video below: