Researchers show mini drone which unfolds itself




Researchers at the Technical University of Lausanne have shown a mini drone itself within 0.3 seconds to unfold. They took inspiration from previous origami techniques. A future version should also be able to fold back themselves.

The researchers will present a prototype of their design at the International Conference on Robotics and Automation, which takes place next week in Seattle. Folded, the drone 68x68x35mm is great; folded the size increases to 160x160x35mm. The weight is 39g.

Foldable drones existed longer, but to make the drone ready for a flight, the operator must manually open the propeller arms often. That takes extra time, and moreover, the user can thereby make mistakes.

The study describes three strategies for an expandable structure can be created. First, there are constructions which hinges at different points. That are easy to design, but complex to make. In addition, the technology translates poorly to larger structures. There are also materials which are so flexible that they can themselves be folded. They are simpler, but the flexibility of the material is then the limiting factor. The researchers used their drone why a third approach, which is inspired by origami techniques. It will be designed in 2D structures that allow fold into a 3D shape.

The four propeller arms are made of 0,3mm thick fiberglass with a layer of Icarex, a kind of polyester, for example, which is also used for pilots. When folded down, the arms in a horizontal position around the middle part. The hardware in the drone, including printed circuit board, battery, motors and propellers, comes from the commercially available Walkera QR Ladybird.


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