indestructible drone

Crash-Proof: ‘Indestructible’ Drone Springs Back To Shape

The innovative, resilient design draws from the biology of insects.

indestructible drone

Researchers in Switzerland may have discovered the design for an unbreakable drone. The unnamed prototype employs an elastic frame and durable mechanical hub that’s held together by magnets.

As you can see in the video above, a hard impact will disjoint the propellers from the main hub temporarily. But when the unit comes to rest, the magnets snap the structure back to its original shape. And since it’s flexible, the whole structure reorients easily and automatically.

Insect Wings Inspire Drone Design

Past designs incorporated bulky cages and 360-degree “flip” flying capabilities to protect drone-buyers’ investments.

epfl collapsible drone crash proof indestructible drone
Illustration by EPFL

But Stefano Mintchev and fellow researchers from NCCR Robotics, École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, and Floreano Lab found inspiration for a new approach: Insects.

Specifically, they borrowed from their wings. Flying bugs like wasps have flexible joints made of protein resilin attached to a hard, chitinous cuticle. This provides free movement, protective casing, and a safe amount of give.

The results are promising. After over 50 crashes and drops from as high as 6.5 feet, the drone suffered no permanent damage.

‘Indestructible’ Design

There’s no way to guarantee this or any drone is completely indestructible, but this appears to be a new breed of durable UAV.

The current build is a quadcopter, but researchers said their design could accommodate any number of propellers. A central case houses the electronics and connects to the external frame with four magnets.

The shape of the drone is based around 0.3mm-thick fiberglass bands. These are thin enough to bend and wobble, and resilient enough to return to original form.

Applications are endless, from recreation to professional. But a drone that could endure harsh conditions and crashes would certainly benefit search-and-rescue operations.

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There is no word yet on price or availability. We’ll keep an eye out for similar commercial designs.

Adam Ruggiero
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Adam Ruggiero is an all-sport activity junkie - from biking, running, and (not enough) surfing, to ball sports, camping, and cattle farming. If it's outside, it's worth doing. Adam graduated from the University of Minnesota with a BA in journalism. Likes: unique beer, dogs, stories. Like nots: neckties, escalators, manicured lawns.

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