Video: Wall-Climbing, Base-Jumping Robot Hurls Itself From Buildings

Base-Jumping Bot

Having climbed up the building along a red carpet, Paraswift base jumps to the ground, where ETH Zurich engineers waited with a safety net.via YouTube

A new base-jumping robot can climb vertical walls, flip open a parachute and jump off, parasailing to the ground while capturing video of the trip. It's the first compact robot that can both climb and fly, two characteristics that will serve it well when the robots take over the world and need to penetrate humanity's defenses.

Paraswift, as it's called, rolls up the main building at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in the video below. It doesn't need the red carpet, but its builders at ETH Zurich get style points for that touch.

Unlike other wall-climbing tech based on vacuum suction, the robot uses a low pressure gradient to stick to the wall. Paraswift uses an impeller, a rotor spinning in a tube, to create a low pressure vortex like the center of a tornado. This creates a partial vacuum that adheres the robot to the wall, as explained by ETH Zurich. The wheels stay in contact with the surface to be climbed, and the vortex holds the robot to the wall, so there's no need to create a vacuum seal.

It was built for fun in a collaboration with Disney Research, which has been exploring new robot designs for use in its theme parks. But it could conceivably be used to capture aerial footage or test new robot landing systems.

As the video shows, Paraswift unfurls its parachute before it jumps off, which ensures it has time to position properly for a safe landing. In that sense, it's not a true base jumper. But impressive nonetheless.