This Sneaky New Power Drone Uses Flexy Arms To Squeeze Through Gaps

Although quadcopter drones are known for their speed, their design often has drawbacks, such as being fragile and somewhat broad. These limitations may limit their potential uses. The Morphy drone is an interesting solution that can easily navigate small places because of its flexible propeller arms.

The brains behind the Morphy drone, which is presently in the functioning prototype stage, are Kostas Alexis, Morten Christian Nissov, and Paolo de Petris from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology’s Autonomous Robots Lab.

At first glance, the Morphy looks like any other small quadcopter, with propeller guards that wrap around it. That being said, its unique design makes it stand out. A 3D-printed elastomer joint, which houses a 3D Hall-effect sensor, connects each of the drone’s propeller arms to the main body. Thanks to its special configuration, the drone can manage collisions and squeeze through small spaces.

When a propeller’s joint comes into contact with a solid surface, it bends rather than breaks. The drone’s 8-core microprocessor receives data from the joint’s Hall-effect sensor, which determines the bend’s direction and magnitude. Then, to maintain flight and stability, the processor modifies the thrust of each of the four propellers.

Because of this feature, the Morphy can fit through gaps that are smaller than its own body, both vertically and horizontally. Furthermore, the drone is capable of withstanding impacts at up to 3 meters per second (9.8 feet per second) with walls or additional obstacles.

“Collisions that previously had to be avoided have now become acceptable risks, while areas that are untraversable for a certain robot size can now be negotiated through self-squeezing,” the researchers explain. “These novel bodily interactions with the environment can give rise to new types of embodied intelligence.”

The Morphy drone uses a more simple and efficient technique for navigating confined spaces than previous experimental drones that fold their propeller arms. It weighs 260 grams (9.2 oz) and has a width of 252 mm (9.9 in). Its flight time is over 12 minutes and 30 seconds on a single battery charge. It has optical and time-of-flight depth-sensing cameras in addition to Hall-effect sensors.

Watch the video below for a closer look at the Morphy drone:

Source: Autonomous Robots Lab via IEEE Spectrum

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