Soft Robotic Technologies for High Performance Flight

Bird1Soft Robotics is now considered one of the most promising frontiers for robotics research and technological innovation. Being “soft” is more and more a characteristics needed in robotics systems, especially in those that have to interact with humans or within particular environments. The importance of soft body parts appears clear if taking a look at many natural organisms, where softness, compliance, and embodied intelligence are useful characteristics for reducing the complexity of behaviour control.

This is also the case of flying animals, which combine sensing and control with adaptive body designs, exploiting fluid dynamic and biomechanical effects to achieve very high levels of operational robustness and multiple functionalities.

Current aerial robots are typically made out of rigid materials and morphologies, and rely on complex sensing and dynamic closed loop control to fly. The use of soft and compliant materials and architectures would enable creating a new generation of flying robots with enhanced operational versatility, performance and robustness, better adaptability in the real world, and reduced control complexity.

Our goal is to develop the next generation aerial robots which use soft robotics technologies and adaptive morphologies to achieve high-performance flight behaviours and better adaptability to environmental changes, by taking inspiration from natural organisms.

More specifically, we are looking at the use of soft technologies for flying robots for:

  • Multi-modal locomotion: to enable multi-modal mobility across various environments, terrain interfaces and fluid boundaries, by using compliant wings and adaptable mechanisms
  • Robotic perching : to create soft and compliant interfaces for robotic attachment and energy saving
  • Aerial construction: to manufacture support structures using soft phase-changing materials

Images used under a Creative Commons license from (A) Steve Garvie, (B) Mike Pennington, (C) Adam Inglis and (D) Marcel Holyoak



"How can soft robots help us?” Interview with Dr. Mirko Kovac and other experts of the soft robotics community during the “Soft Robotics Week” (April 25-30, 2016, Livorno, Italy):



  • Sina Sareh
  • Talib Ahinai
  • Robert Siddall
  • Laura Margheri


The Aerial Robotics Laboratory at Imperial College London is Member of the Community of RoboSoft, the EU-funded ICT FET-Open Coordination Action on Soft Robotics (