The problem with most drones today is that they pose a safety risk to people with their blades and are difficult to transport and store. To solve this, engineers from Floreano Lab at EPFL and from NCCR Robotics have thought of a new kind of drone: one with a foldaway cage.
Inspired by an origami, the drone has a protective cage which allows it to bounce off of obstacles, including humans. What sets this apart from conventional drone cages other than that it is not bulky is that it is easily foldable – it can quickly expand to 92% of its original size.
Photos by EPFL
While so far it can only deliver half a kilogram secured in the drone’s enclosure, the folding pattern is its best asset. It was engineered to result in a rigid structure, unlike other origami enclosures which are squeezable. Moreover, the design is modular which allows the density of the cage to be adjusted.
The entire thing weighs 1 kilogram, able to fly or 2 kilometers at most. The carbon fiber cage, which can be opened and closed using a joint mechanism on the top and bottom and pushing apart the resulting gap, is 65 x 65 x 43 centimeters when deployed, and folds down to a size of 31 x 38 x 12 cm when stowed. It is worth noting that the cage can open and close in just 1.2 seconds.
Video by NCCR Robotics
Its engineers hope that the drone could be maximized to its full potential after scaling – it may be able to carry as much as 2 kilograms over 15 kilometers. That’s a feat for such a deliver drone like this with a unique safety feature.
Moreover, they plan to investigate other cage styles to be able to accommodate packages of different shapes and sizes. Features like cameras and an emergency parachute are also in mind for added safety and security of the package inside.