A team at the Korean Advanced Institute of Science and Technology has built a robotic drone that can fly and can also climb on walls. This robotic drone can be used in rescue operations during fires and earthquakes. But it has been mostly built for inspecting fireproof buildings to check whether they are actually fireproof or not.
The name of this robotic drone is CAROS that stands for Climbing Aerial Robot System. It can fly just the way a normal drone does but when it needs to inspect a wall surface, it can attach itself onto the wall and crawl on it and climb up and down. In case its grip comes lose and it begins to fall it can again start flying and land safely on the ground or reattach itself to the perpendicular structure again.
The inbuilt sensors in the climbing and flying drone can capture the maps of 3D environments (like building walls and the inside of the rooms) and pass them on to the autonomous navigation system for further processing.
During peacetime the robotic drone can go on inspecting tall buildings – a job that can be extremely tiresome for humans – but in the times of emergency, such as fire, it can also be used during rescue operations. According to the Institute:
This technology also can be used to assess the situation in a fire disaster. Previously, a mobile robot equipped with a water hose and throwing-type mobile robots were developed to extinguish the fire, but it had a disadvantage when entering and moving through narrow spaces. The CAROS technology can be used as a surveillance robot for use in fires or disasters, as it can pass through narrow indoor environments by changing its mode from wall climbing to flying, and vice-versa, depending on the situation. If CAROS is equipped with a thermal camera, it can detect and track humans through thermal images. In addition, it can transmit environment information by wireless communication.
Why climb on walls if the drone can fly? Flying through narrow spaces can be a problem. Suppose the drone needs to enter a creek or a crack or a narrow space between two walls, then it would make more sense to crawl on the wall rather than hover in the air. Besides, more accurate 3D information can be obtained while stuck to a wall.
As this video shows, the development of the climbing and flying robotic drone is still at an early stage and it is not as accurate as a drone that would actually perform in a real-world situation.