On the Development of Tethered, Modular,
Self-Attaching, Reconfigurable Vehicles for
Aerial Grasping and Package Delivery
Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) are quickly becoming the future of payload delivery. Over the past few years, many designs have surfaced with a variety of different solutions to this problem. Current systems are often bulky and designed for a specific purpose. This makes them difficult to adapt to new environments or payloads. This paper details the design and development of a novel, reconfigurable vehicle system that is able to adapt to a variety of environments and payload dimensions. The system consists of multiple individual mobile modules equipped with rotors, which work collaboratively to grasp a single payload. Each module has the capability to act independently of one another and can move along a 2D plane in any direction, like a mobile robot. Grasping is accomplished using a tethering system which joins adjacent modules together and allows them to clamp onto a payload. The payload becomes the backbone that offers rigidity to the formed drone. Thus, upon reconfiguration, the system is essentially a rigid body with the modules on the exterior surrounding the payload. The system can then take flight and transport the package to a different location. Significant testing was carried out with the designed prototype, and open loop flight was achieved, proving the feasibility of the concept. The system has been experimentally tested to provide up to 14 N per vehicle with a theoretical capacity of 20 N. This results in each module having an estimated payload of 500 g with 25% thrust capacity still available.