École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland has developed a delivery drone that is both reliable and cost effective, and also is able to protect your delicate packages from being damaged when falling off those drones. They surround the drone with protective cages that allows them to bounch off obstacles, as well as protecting them from us.
At IROS in Vancouver, researchers from Dario Floreano’s lab at EPFL will present a clever origami protective cage that can quickly expand to 92 percent of its original size to safely(ish) deliver 0.5 kilogram of whatever you want, locked up inside.
In its current form, the quadrotor (which is sorely lacking a catchy name like “Cagey McDroneface”) weighs 1 kg. The carbon fiber cage is 65 x 65 x 43 centimeters when deployed, and folds down to a size of 31 x 38 x 12 cm when stowed. To attach the package to the cage, a high-tech system comprising either “a round shape lightweight net and ropes” or a glorified plastic box is used. While the drone is technically autonomous in that it has an autopilot on board, without any sense-and-avoid system, it’s limited to navigating between GPS waypoints.
Besides just scaling the drone up, the EPFL researchers also plan to investigate other cage styles to be able to accommodate packages of different shapes and sizes (like documents). They also want to add cameras on the outside of the cage for precision landings, as well as an emergency parachute system just in case things goes wrong, which (since this is a robot) at some point it almost certainly will.
Images via Spectrum IEEE