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Find Your Science at GSA
2 October 2008
GSA Release No. 08-58
Christa Stratton
Director of Education, Communication, & Outreach

Sara Uttech
Program Manager, Communications

Pterodactyl-Inspired Robot to Master Air, Ground, and Sea

Paleontologist Sankar Chatterjee of Texas Tech University, aeronautical engineer Rick Lind of the University of Florida, and their students, Andy Gedeon and Brian Roberts, have reached back in time 115 million years to one of the most successful flying creatures in Earth’s history, the pterodactyl, to conjure a robotic spy plane with next-generation capabilities.

Mimicking the physical and biological characteristics of the Early Cretaceous Brazilian pterosaur Tapejara wellnhoferi — skin, blood vessels, muscles, tendons, nerves, cranial plate, skeletal structure, and more — the scientists are working to develop a Pterodrone — an unmanned aerial vehicle that not only flies but also walks and sails just like the original.

"The next generation of airborne drones won’t just be small and silent," says the multidisciplinary group, "they’ll alter their wing shapes using morphing techniques to squeeze through confined spaces, dive between buildings, zoom under overpasses, land on apartment balconies, or sail along the coastline."

The talk on Tuesday, 7 October, at the 2008 Joint Meeting of the Geological Society of America, Soil Science Society of America-American Society of Agronomy-Crop Science Society of America, and Gulf Coast Association of Geological Societies, in Houston, Texas, will provide illustrations of both the Tapejara and the proposed Pterodrone, with details on the richly improved ability of the robotic spy plane to gather data from sights, sounds, and smells in a variety of environments.


Tuesday, 7 October 2008, 4:15-4:30 p.m.
George R. Brown Convention Center, Room 351CF

View abstract, session no. 260, paper no. 12:
Pterodactyl-Inspired Unmanned Aerial Vehicle with Multimodal Locomotion


For on-site assistance during the 2008 Joint Annual Meeting, 5-9 October, contact Christa Stratton or Sara Uttech in the Newsroom, George R. Brown Convention Center, Room 350B, +1-713-853-8329.

After the meeting contact:
Sankar Chatterjee
Geosciences, Texas Tech University
MS Box 41053, Lubbock, Texas 79409-3191, USA
Rick Lind
Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering
University of Florida
Gainesville, FL 32611, USA


pterodactyl robot pterodactyl
Left: Skeletal reconstruction of the biological inspiration for the Pterodrone,
Tapejara wellnhoferi, an Early Cretaceous pterodactyloid from Brazil. Image by
Bill Mueller. Right: Configuration of the Pterodrone with vertical tail at the nose.
Image by Brian Roberts. Click on photos for larger images.


For more information on the 2008 Joint Meeting visit