Climbing plants and tactile-based grasping devices
Climbing plants are capable to grasp objects by extending themselves and then use the objects as support by coiling around them. The goal is to achieve maximum vertical height for rich sun exposure while avoiding the energy expenditure of developing a supporting trunk .
Unlike the examples in the animal kingdom, climbing plants do not rely on vision to attain the support, but drive their tendrils (the organs specialized in grasping) using only the contact sense.
How can tendrils be imitated and what are the advantages in imitating them? Robotic grasping is a complex task and poses some very intricate problems. One of the main difficulties is to be able to generalise to variations of object
position, orientation and shape. For this reason, most of the robotic grasping known assumes a grasped object and all information needed for the grasping to occur. Alternatively, they rely on vision to obtain relevant information
about the objects.
The sensory and actuation system of plants may be less dynamic than our human senses and muscles but still have the advantage of greater autonomy.
The biomimetic of the tendril may be extremely valuable for use in autonomous robots, such as controlling the length of momentum exchange tether or electrodynamics tethers, grasping debris to facilitate their removal, terminal docking, space refuelling and self-assembly and, in general, all those missions where grasping or controlling a tether length could offer a solution to a space engineering problem.