Researchers in the Laboratory for Intelligent Systems (LIS) at Switzerland’s École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) (Lausanne Federal Institute of Technology) developed a specially designed drone that mimics a bird for their latest bio-inspired project. The drone is feathered like a bird, with shape-shifting wingspan that allows it to fly fast and turn sharply and resistant to strong winds.
Birds are known for their agility for millions of years, making scientists gaining interest in them and coming up with different experiments to match the manoeuvrability of a real bird.
Their research has just been published in the Royal Society journal Interface Focus. Dario Floreano and his team of researchers wants to develop a drone that can cope with various flight conditions by changing its geometry mid-flight. The outer wing, which are large feathers at the edge, can be folded and overlap like a fan. Those wings are also known as morphing wings, that can adapt to the environment.
“We were inspired by birds: they can radically transform the size and shape of their wings because they have an articulated skeleton that is controlled by muscles and covered in feathers that overlap when the wings are folded,” explained Matteo di Luca.
With the wings fully extended, the drone can fly very aggressively, able to overcome strong environmental conditions. When faced with strong winds, it can retract the wings to become more streamlined. Lift increases by 32 percent and drag decreases by 40, when the wings are completely retracted, boosting the top speed of the drone from 6.3 meters per second to 7.6 meters per second.
The researchers hope to improve their drone to be even more bird-like. Check out their demo video below and hear the researchers have to say.