A research team from the University of Zurich has developed a new drone that can retract its propeller arms in flight and make itself small to fit through narrow gaps and holes. This is particularly useful when searching for victims of natural disasters.
Inspecting a damaged building after an earthquake or during a fire is exactly the kind of job that human rescuers would like drones to do for them. A flying robot could look for people trapped inside and guide the rescue team towards them.
When faced with a narrow passage, the drone can switch to a "H" shape, with all arms lined up along one axis.
But the drone would often have to enter the building through a crack in a wall, a partially open window, or through bars - something the typi-cal size of a drone does not allow.
To solve this problem, 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. Both groups are part of the National Centre of Competence in Research (NCCR) Robotics funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation.
Inspired by birds that fold their wings in mid-air to cross narrow passages, the new drone can squeeze itself to pass through gaps and then go back to its previous shape, all the while continuing to fly. And it can even hold and transport objects along the way.
Mobile arms can fold around the main frame
"Our solution is quite simple from a mechanical point of view, but it is very versatile and very au-tonomous, with onboard perception and control systems," explains Davide Falanga, researcher at the University of Zurich and the paper's first author. In comparison to other drones, this morphing drone can maneuver in tight spaces and guarantee a stable flight at all times.
The Zurich and Lausanne teams worked in collaboration and designed a quadrotor with four pro-pellers that rotate independently, mounted on mobile arms that can fold around the main frame thanks to servo-motors. The ace in the hole is a 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.
"The morphing drone can adopt different configurations according to what is needed in the field," adds Stefano Mintchev, co-author and researcher at EPFL. The standard configuration is X-shaped, with the four arms stretched out and the propellers at the widest possible distance from each other. When faced with a narrow passage, the drone can switch to a "H" shape, with all arms lined up along one axis or to a "O" shape, with all arms folded as close as possible to the body. A "T" shape can be used to bring the onboard camera mounted on the central frame as close as possible to objects that the drone needs to inspect.
First step to fully autonomous rescue searches
In the future, the researchers hope to further improve the drone structure so that it can fold in all three dimensions. Most importantly, they want to develop algorithms that will make the drone truly autonomous, allowing it to look for passages in a real disaster scenario and automatically choose the best way to pass through them. "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," says Falanga.
Prof. Dr. Davide Scaramuzza
University of Zurich
Director of the Robotics and Perception Group
Tel: +41 44 635 24 07
Davide Falanga, Kevin Kleber, Stefano Mintchev, Dario Floreano, Davide Scaramuzza.
The Foldable Drone: A Morphing Quadrotor that can Squeeze and Fly- IEEE Robotics and Auto-mation Letter, 10 December 2018. DOI: 10.1109/LRA.2018.2885575
Paper preprint (free of charge): http://rpg.ifi.uzh.ch/docs/RAL18_Falanga.pdf
Melanie Nyfeler | Universität Zürich
Overtones can provide faster data communication
10.01.2019 | University of Gothenburg
Programming light on a chip
09.01.2019 | Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences
The phenomenon of so-called superlubricity is known, but so far the explanation at the atomic level has been missing: for example, how does extremely low friction occur in bearings? Researchers from the Fraunhofer Institutes IWM and IWS jointly deciphered a universal mechanism of superlubricity for certain diamond-like carbon layers in combination with organic lubricants. Based on this knowledge, it is now possible to formulate design rules for supra lubricating layer-lubricant combinations. The results are presented in an article in Nature Communications, volume 10.
One of the most important prerequisites for sustainable and environmentally friendly mobility is minimizing friction. Research and industry have been dedicated...
Just in time for Christmas, a Mars-analogue mission in Morocco, coordinated by the Robotics Innovation Center of the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI) as part of the SRC project FACILITATORS, has been successfully completed. SRC, the Strategic Research Cluster on Space Robotics Technologies, is a program of the European Union to support research and development in space technologies. From mid-November to mid-December 2018, a team of more than 30 scientists from 11 countries tested technologies for future exploration of Mars and Moon in the desert of the Maghreb state.
Close to the border with Algeria, the Erfoud region in Morocco – known to tourists for its impressive sand dunes – offered ideal conditions for the four-week...
Research opens doors in photonic quantum information processing, optical signal processing and microwave photonics
Researchers from the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) have developed a new integrated photonics platform that can...
A team of experimentalists at the U.S. Department of Energy's Ames Laboratory and theoreticians at University of Alabama Birmingham discovered a remarkably long-lived new state of matter in an iron pnictide superconductor, which reveals a laser-induced formation of collective behaviors that compete with superconductivity.
"Superconductivity is a strange state of matter, in which the pairing of electrons makes them move faster," said Jigang Wang, Ames Laboratory physicist and...
Some patients with breast cancer receive chemotherapy before the tumor is removed with surgery. This approach, called 'neoadjuvant' therapy, helps to reduce the size of the tumor to facilitate breast-conserving surgery, and can even eradicate the tumor, leaving few or no cancerous cells for the surgeon to remove. In those cases, the patients are very likely to remain cancer-free for life after surgery.
But not all tumors shrink under chemotherapy. If the tumor resists neoadjuvant therapy, there can be a higher risk of developing metastatic disease, meaning...
14.01.2019 | Event News
12.12.2018 | Event News
10.12.2018 | Event News
14.01.2019 | Life Sciences
14.01.2019 | Event News
14.01.2019 | Physics and Astronomy