A team of researchers at the University of Zurich have developed a drone that can shrink and retract in size while flying in order to pass through holes and small gaps. The drone has four arms which can all be folded independently whenever needed, for example, during rescue missions where space is too limited for humans to pass through. The drone has been designed to reach places where humans can’t and make it less challenging to locate victims inside a collapsed building in the event of a disaster such as a fire or earthquake.
There are many types of drones that rescue teams have been using in their work, but most of them too large to fit into gaps, such as a crack in the wall. But the latest developments in the field of drone technology solves this problem quite efficiently. The researchers claim the inspiration for their new drone and its shape shifting capabilities were derived by analyzing the movement of birds. Birds have the amazing ability to fly through tree branches and other tight fits, and that is something similar to what the developers of this drone were trying to accomplish.
The current prototype of this drone features an onboard computer, four arms, and two cameras. In most cases, it can use AI (Artificial Intelligence) to judge a specific crack or hole and change it’s shape in flight in order to fit. When the drone is faced with a tiny hole or a narrow entrance, it instantly changes its shape and adopts an H-formation while its arms all line up along one axis.
In case the hole has a tight oval shape, the drone becomes small and takes on an ‘O’ shape while folding all of its arms close to its body in order to pass through. If that wasn’t enough, the drone can also transition into a ‘T’ shape in order to align either of its two onboard cameras in order to inspect an object or entrance more closely. A drone like this is set to help rescue missions in which rescuers can not fit, or if the location is not stable or safe enough for humans to enter.