In a world’s first, researchers made an aerial robot that can morph while in flight.

Researchers from the Étienne Jules Marey Institute of Movement Sciences in Marseilles have reportedly designed a bird-inspired aerial robot that is capable of changing its profile in mid-flight.

The flying robot can reportedly reduce its wingspan, navigate through tight spaces, and reorient its arms that are equipped with propellers, allowing it to fly in the air like a helicopter.

The innovation paves the way for new generation of large robots that could be used for future search and rescue operations. The team published their findings in the journal Soft Robotics.

While there are already robots that can roll, pitch, and change their flight altitude to pass through tight spaces, creating one that exhibits the ability to quickly maneuver during flight is still a real challenge to engineers.

To date, aerial robots are utilized in many search and rescue, exploratory, and mapping operations around the world. While the need for these tasks to be accomplished increases due to natural disasters and other unforeseen events, the demand for flying robots that could circumnavigate through obstacles and pass through tight passages also increases.

Dubbed as the Quad-Morphing Robot, the drone is composed of two rotating arms, each with propellers for flying. The robot can change the orientation of its wings in flight due to a system of elastic and rigid wires. This allows the robot to morph perpendicular or parallel to its central axis.

The robot’s agility relies mainly on the precision of its autopilot mechanism. The autopilot activates the Quad-Morphing Robot’s arm orientation when it comes nearer to a tight passage. This feature is made possible by a 3D localization system utilized at the institute. Aside from that, the robot also has miniature cameras which take 120 pictures per second.

According to the researchers, the cameras could one day let the drone autonomously assess the size of any gap before it folds its wings based on its measurement. The team plans to flight test a new set of cameras this month.

Aside from scouting locations, where else do you think this aerial robot could be used?

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