Insects inspire crash-proof drone

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A drone with wasp-like wings can bounce back into shape after crashing.

Drone makers often try to protect their devices by using stiff, bulky frames, but these tend to fail during high-speed impacts. Conversely, wasps have wings with flexible joints that allow the wings to deform during collisions. Stefano Mintchev and his colleagues at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne created a remote-controlled drone (pictured) with flexible fibreglass arms. During flight, the arms are locked to the central body by magnetic joints to keep them rigid. When subjected to an impact, the joints release, allowing the arms to bend, absorb the shock and snap back into place. Over the course of 50 collisions, the 50-gram prototype sustained damage only twice.

Combining rigid and soft materials into one device could help to improve the resilience of mobile robots, the authors say.

IEEE Robot. Automat. Lett. (2017)

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