Researchers from the Seoul National University of Science and Technology (SeoulTech) have developed a chameleon-like tongue to enable robots and drones to “grab” objects from a distance.

The robotic tongue, called the “Snatcher,” mimics the motion of a chameleon’s tongue as it snatches insects. Reportedly, the Snatcher can wrangle objects weighing 0.06 lbs from distances of 31.5 in away in under 600 milliseconds.

To mimic the chameleon, researchers built a spring-like device operated via an active clutch and a single series elastic actuator. A steel tapeline, which is powered via a wind-up spring and designed to function much like the chameleon’s tongue, will pass through two geared feeders. The clutch enables the Snatcher to rapidly unwind in one direction and then retract, via switching the direction of the geared wheel.

The researchers intend to install the Snatcher on commercial drones for the purpose of grasping packages.

The research appears in the journal IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters.

To see how the robotic chameleon tongue works, watch the video that appears courtesy of IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters.

To contact the author of this article, email mdonlon@globalspec.com