Toward autonomous avian-inspired grasping for micro aerial vehicles

Justin Thomas, Giuseppe Loianno, Joseph Polin, Koushil Sreenath, Vijay Kumar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Micro aerial vehicles, particularly quadrotors, have been used in a wide range of applications. However, the literature on aerial manipulation and grasping is limited and the work is based on quasi-static models. In this paper, we draw inspiration from agile, fast-moving birds such as raptors, that are able to capture moving prey on the ground or in water, and develop similar capabilities for quadrotors. We address dynamic grasping, an approach to prehensile grasping in which the dynamics of the robot and its gripper are significant and must be explicitly modeled and controlled for successful execution. Dynamic grasping is relevant for fast pick-and-place operations, transportation and delivery of objects, and placing or retrieving sensors. We show how this capability can be realized (a) using a motion capture system and (b) without external sensors relying only on onboard sensors. In both cases we describe the dynamic model, and trajectory planning and control algorithms. In particular, we present a methodology for flying and grasping a cylindrical object using feedback from a monocular camera and an inertial measurement unit onboard the aerial robot. This is accomplished by mapping the dynamics of the quadrotor to a level virtual image plane, which in turn enables dynamically-feasible trajectory planning for image features in the image space, and a vision-based controller with guaranteed convergence properties. We also present experimental results obtained with a quadrotor equipped with an articulated gripper to illustrate both approaches.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number025010
JournalBioinspiration and Biomimetics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2014


  • MAVs
  • aerial manipulation
  • dynamic grasping
  • image based visual servoing (IBVS)
  • quadrotor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Biophysics
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Medicine
  • Engineering (miscellaneous)


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