Insect Wing-Inspired Drone Bounces Back from Impacts

This hybrid origami drone developed at EPFL can absorb shocks without breaking, before returning to its initial shape. Inspired by insect wings, it draws on the advantages of both stiff and flexible structures. When airborne, the structure is stiff enough to carry its own weight and withstand the thrust of the propellers. But if the drone runs into something, it becomes flexible in order to absorb the shock and minimize any damage. The drone features an elastomer membrane that is stretched and then sandwiched between rigid plates. When the system is at rest, the plates hold together and give the structure its stiffness. But when enough force is applied, the plates draw apart and the structure can bend.