Design Engineering
Showcase 2020

SCRAM: Soaring and Climbing Rainforest Robot for Aerial Monitoring

Hayden Cotgrove
Design Engineering MEng
Dr Thrishantha Nanayakkara
Rethinking Resources for a Finite Planet

Designing a sustainable robot capable of multi-modal traversal in a rainforest.

Rainforests are vital to life on Earth, providing home to nearly half of all the species worldwide and contributing resources to the production of a quarter of western pharmaceuticals. Despite this, the rainforest has hardly been explored due to the difficulties in finding non-invasive methods of traversing it. This applies especially to the rainforest canopy. With the increasing levels of deforestation, we are running out of time. By some measures, rainforests may disappear completely within the next 40 years. Gliding and climbing robots present a low-cost and efficient opportunity for rainforest traversal and monitoring, and could help with the discovery, recording, and monitoring of previously unexplored and unexplorable areas of the rainforest.


A rainforest canopy traversal method has been designed for a rainforest monitoring robot. The robot will be capable of gliding between trees, landing on them (through a controlled landing, using a tail wing to adjust the robot's pitch in mid-air), and climbing them again to regain height (using a mechanical linkage system controlled by a single motor).

The robot is sustainably manufactured, consisting mostly of 3D printed components, manufactured in the PLA bioplastic, supplemented with common household materials, and with all parts snap-fitting together. All electronic components are common, off-the-shelf components that are widely available.


The robot’s landing system was designed using biomimicry, copying the way a gliding squirrel adjusts its pitch in the air by moving its tail. The tail movement causes the gliding robot to increase its pitch, with its whole body acting as a wind break. This allows to both slow the glider down, and to orient it correctly for landing.

Both legs are controlled by a single high torque DC motor. Each leg is a contra-synchronised Klann linkage, a linkage designed to mimic the gait of a walking animal, while using as few links as possible (six per leg). This linkage was adapted for climbing by including a claw at the foot, designed to spread the bodyweight of the robot and to hook into the climbing surface. The climbing and gliding mechanisms are connected through the ground link of the climbing mechanism, this doubles as a wing tip to increase the stability whilst gliding.


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