When people think of a drone today, the picture that comes to mind is that of a military drone hovering overhead, ready to snap pictures of unsuspecting people down below or preparing to blow up a building. In reality, a drone is any flying vehicle that does not require a human pilot. Drones have come a long way from being exclusively used by the military to becoming something of a popular hobby. There are drone races funded by universities and corporations featuring home-made drones. These competitions reward the winners handsomely.
Engineers at the Stanford University and EPFL in Switzerland have built tiny drones that are capable of pulling objects that are up to forty times their body weight. These little robots are inspired by insects that drag their dead prey over long distances. What is interesting is that the drones don’t lift their loads, but pull them, just like the insects that inspired them. A powerful grip and strong threads allow the tiny little marvels to get a firm footing on a solid surface and spool out wire to pull or drag weights way heavier than their own.
Think of it like a person who needs to move a wardrobe. While he may not be strong enough to actually lift it off the ground, he can surely push it across the room. The drones are able to fly short distances and even collaborate with other drones in sharing the load. Such drones could have extensive applications in clearing trash, search and rescue, surveillance, etc.