Switzerland: Scientists at the Swiss National Centre of Competence in Research (NCCR) and the Floreano Lab at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL) have developed a flexible drone that recoils during a crash.
Unlike many drones, which are now mostly made with carbon fiber, the quadcopter drone’s external frame is built with a flexible fiberglass, which uses four magnetic joints to hold together its four arms and connect to the central core.
The fiberglass frame measures 0.3 mm thick, and can withstand substantial collisions without permanent damage. The collision between the fiberglass case and the drone’s floor is mediated by a visco-elastic foam placed in the front of frame. The foam acts as a cushion and contributes to mitigating the deceleration experienced by the case and its components.
When the drone receives impact, the frame magnets detach and the outer frame becomes very soft and deformable, absorbing shock from the central case and preventing permanent deformation of the arms and frame.
Then, as it stops bouncing, the elastic bands pull the magnets back in line, and the drone snaps back into shape, ready to fly again – pretty much by the time it comes to rest. Experiments showed that the frame of the drone withstood roughly 50 collisions with no permanent damage.
Fiberglass drones are not new to EPFL. Back in December, researchers from the university unveiled a fiberglass drone that flies like an actual bird.