A drone that uses retractable feather wings, mimicking the natural flight of birds, has been designed by researchers in Switzerland, as Jim Drury reports.
Is it a bird? Is it a Plane? Neither....it's a drone inspired by birds. Researchers from Switzerland's EPFL have made this drone mimic birds' wings. SOUNDBITE (English) STEFANO MINTCHEV, EPFL RESEARCHER, SAYING: "Conventional drones, since they have a fixed shape, the wing flies very efficiently in specific conditions, so they are designed for example to fly when there is high wind or to be very manouevrable, to perform tight turns in cluttered environments; and so these are kind of opposing needs in an airplane, and the main advantage of this design is we can combine both of them in a single platform thanks to the adaptive morphologies of the wing itself." UPSOT: FLAP Overlaping feathers made of lightweight composite materials, fold and overlap like a fan. SOUNDBITE (English) STEFANO MINTCHEV, EPFL RESEARCHER, SAYING: "We can achieve a reduction in surface of 50 percent and this is because the feathers overlap during the folding process. So it's a very efficient technology to make wings that can change shape or the surface." UPSOT: FLAP SOUNDBITE (English) STEFANO MINTCHEV, EPFL RESEARCHER, SAYING: "The wing can be folded like that and in this way we can transition from a fully deployed morphology which maximizes the surface of the wing, which is very good to perform tight turns to a morphology which is completely folded that is very effective in decreasing the drag of the wing and for flight in case of heavy winds in an energy efficient way." Allowing easy manouevring between buildings and increasing wind resistance could make the design ideal for delivery drones. Lightweight and foldable, they could also be helpful in search and rescue missions, say the designers. Currently controlled by joystick, the team is developing an autonomous version.