It can be quite dangerous for manned crews to inspect a damaged building after an earthquake or fire, and that’s exactly why researchers from the Robotics and Perception Group at the University of Zurich and the Laboratory of Intelligent Systems at EPFL created a new kind of drone for the task. This innovative new design was inspired by birds that fold their wings in mid-air to cross narrow passages, and this drone can morph itself to fit through narrow gaps and then go back to its previous shape, all the while continuing to fly. Best of all, the drone can still hold and transport objects along the way. Read more for the video and additional information.
The Zurich and Lausanne teams teamed up to design a quadrotor with four propellers that rotate independently, mounted on mobile arms that can fold around the main frame, thanks to servo-motors. What really sets this drone apart from others is its control system that adapts in real time to any new position of the arms, adjusting the thrust of the propellers as the center of gravity shifts.
“Our solution is quite simple from a mechanical point of view, but it is very versatile and very autonomous, with onboard perception and control systems. The morphing drone can adopt different configurations according to what is needed in the field,” said the researchers.