Even the most experienced drone pilots know that drone crashes and the consequential hardware breakdowns are inevitable. Swiss researchers at École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) have come up with a solution taking inspiration from nature. They have designed a flexible quadcopter that can absorb the shock of a crash by deforming itself but pops back up as soon as it gets the chance, thus minimizing the damage.
The design is taken from Mother Nature where insects have bodies that are flexible and able to crumble on the opposite side of an impact, but come back into their place when the force is removed. Most drones, however, use lightweight plastic or carbon fiber that are easier to manufacture but are more prone to cracking and shearing apart.
The Swiss researchers used this crumbling characteristic and applied it to the body of their quadcopters. The propellers were not changed since they are cheap and easy to swap, but the rest of body is usually expensive to manufacture and repair once damaged. The EPFL researchers used a flexible elastic frame that is limp and mushy individually, but when attached to a central rigid core containing a series of magnets, they become strong and fit for a quadcopter.
In an event of a crash, the force of the impact moves the central core away from the outer frame, which makes the outer frame flexible and squishy again. Thus it compresses and absorbs the energy of the impact.
Once the impact is over and the force is removed, the central core pops back into its place thanks to the magnets, making the drone ready to soar the skies again. This innovative design can be scaled up and used in robots, machines and any thing that is prone to crashes and impact!
Watch the design at work below!
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