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DARPA Unveils Robotic Landing Gear For Helicopters That Can Change Shape

Helicopters while being versatile are quite bound when it comes to landing and taking off. They require a flat surface for executing both and such ideal scenarios can hardly be found in rescue and combat missions. The current array of helicopters relies on simple skid or wheels landing gear that requires the machine to remain level in order to avoid tipping the rotors. DARPA has demonstrated a new robotic landing gear system in an unmanned flight near Atlanta, Georgia. The landing gear system allows helicopters to land on broken or uneven terrain while sporting a high degree of safety.

The robotic landing gear is being developed by the Georgia Institute of Technology under funding from DARPA’s Mission Adaptive Rotor (MAR) program. The recent flight was demonstrated at the DARPA’s ‘Wait, What? A Future Technology Forum’ held in St. Louis.

The adaptive system comprises of a 4-legged undercarriage that is installed instead of the standard landing gear. The end result is four independently articulated legs that impart the feeling of helicopter being able to walk away on its legs. However, these legs fold up against the fuselage of the ship once the helicopter takes off and only extend when it has to land. Each of the four legs sports a force-sensitive contact sensor located in its foot and all of them work in collaboration while a computer performs real time calculations of the best angles that the legs need to be set to in order to keep the helicopter stable and leveled without risking the rotor making contact with the ground.

As per DARPA, the new landing gear can be installed easily and adds only a modest weight to the helicopter while reducing the risk of damage from hard landings by 80% and allows to set helicopters down on 20-degree slopes. Check out the video below to see this amazing gadget in action.