New Drone Can Fold Itself To Fly Through Narrow Gaps

Posted: Dec 15 2018, 8:47am CST | by , Updated: Dec 15 2018, 8:49am CST, in Latest Science News


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New Drone can Fold Itself to Fly Through Narrow Gaps
Credit: University of Zurich

The new approach allows drones to become very compact and make them useful for search and rescue scenarios.

Drones have been used in search and rescue situations around the world for many years. The flying robots can go into areas inaccessible by humans, collect critical information about conditions inside collapsed buildings and search for victims there.

But drones are operated under severe constraints. They usually need a human to remotely control the device and GPS signals. Moreover, they cannot navigate through tight spaces. To solve this problem, researchers have created a new kind of drone. The new drone can squeeze itself to pass through narrow gaps and then go back to its previous shape while maintaining a stable flight. If drones can enter a building through a crack in a wall or a partially open window, they can become a more useful tool for search and rescue missions.

“The goal of our lab is to develop drones which can be in the future used in the aftermath of a disaster, as for example an earthquake, in order to enter building through small cracks or apertures in a collapsed building to look for survivors,” said lead author of the study Davide Falanga from University of Zurich. “Our previous approach required a very aggressive maneuver; therefore we looked into alternative solutions to accomplish a task as passing through a very narrow gap without having to fly at high speed. The solution we came up with is the foldable drone, a quadrotor which can change its shape to adapt to the task.”

Quadrotor drones are powered by four rotors and their use is increasing due to their small size, low cost and their ability to hold and transport objects along the way. Their structure can also be altered to perform different tasks.

"The morphing drone can adopt different configurations according to what is needed in the field.” Stefano Mintchev, co-author and researcher at EPFL said.

In their standard X-shaped configuration, all four arms of drones are stretched out at the widest possible distance from each other. When new drone crosses a narrow passage, it can transform itself into H shape with all arms folded as close as possible to the body. The shape allows the drone to become very compact that can adapt to different unforeseen situations.

In the future, the researchers hope to further improve the drone structure, so the drones can make independent decisions without close supervision and automatically choose the best way to pass through confined spaces.

Researcher Falanga says."The final goal is to give the drone a high-level instruction such as 'enter that building, inspect every room and come back' and let it figure out by itself how to do it.”

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/47" rel="author">Hira Bashir</a>
The latest discoveries in science are the passion of Hira Bashir (). With years of experience, she is able to spot the most interesting new achievements of scientists around the world and cover them in easy to understand reporting.




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