Robot swings into unexplored treetops

It abseils from a height and swings through the canopy of the rainforest: A robot named Avocado is designed to collect research data in such a difficult-to-access and endangered habitat.

robot "avocado" high up on a tree

Because exploring rainforests is extremely difficult for researchers themselves, a research team at ETH Zurich is developing a robot for this purpose. This robot will one day maneuver around branches and other obstacles in the trees and provide useful information.

In the current test phase, the researchers are still manually attaching the robot, whose name is Avocado, to a high branch. Once docked there, Avocado –  whose name is based on its external resemblance to the green fruit – can move independently.

Biodiversity in the tropics is under threat

It receives information about its environment from a built-in camera, although the complicated lighting conditions in the rainforest limit its usefulness. Nevertheless, Avocado has survived its first test in a real tree.

Because it is attached to a rope, the robot only uses battery power when it moves. It can also be equipped with gripper arms and air filters in order to collect DNA samples. This makes it even possible to discover unknown animal or plant species.

With Avocado, the ETH team has made it to the final of a specialist competition. The competition recognizes innovations for accelerating the monitoring of tropical biodiversity. Due to agriculture and deforestation, it is disappearing more and more.

Written by: sda

Photos: Emanuele Aucone

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