Drones are fun and everything, but they become machines of heartache after you irreparably wreck one after flying it for only a few minutes. If only there could be squishy drones, that don’t break when they crash.
By Darren Orf
Good news. Roboticists from EPFL in Lausanne, Switzerland, have developed a new drone to mimic the elasticity and durability of insects. Researchers achieved this by using a “squishy” material that’s able to be rigged while flying but become malleable when it comes in contact with something. This flexibility absorbs potentially damaging impacts and eliminates them.
According to IEEE Spectrum, the researchers took inspiration from insects—particular wasps—when designing the drone. Wasp wings crumble when met with an unexpected impact. In much the same way, this squishy drone crumbles when it crashes. The main body of the drone is secured with magnets that break away during a collision, and snap back together once the energy from the collision has been absorbed. This protects the drone, its rotors, and the mental state of any would-be drone pilots.
Other after-market ideas help drones survive after taking an unfortunate spill, including one that builds a spherical cage around the drone. Of course, this comes with obvious disadvantages chief of among them is that it greatly increases a drone’s footprint and obstructs onboard cameras.
But EPFL’s drone, built with survivability in mind, is the perfect quadcopter for my terrible pilot instincts.
This article was originally wirtten for and published by Popular Mechanics USA.