An origami-inspired prototype delivery drone which can transport packages to hard-to-reach destinations has been invented by a PhD student in Switzerland, as Jim Drury reports.
Inspired by origami, this could be the best way to safely deliver packages by drone. That's the view of the EPFL researcher who devised the prototype. Made of carbon-fibre, it can be grabbed safely by recipients while flying. SOUNDBITE (English) PRZEMYSLAW KORNATOWSKI, PHD STUDENT AND DRONE DEVELOPER, SAYING: "The cage provides safety because it separates the propellers from us. But additionally we have here safety switches, so whenever we open the cage the propulsion system which is inside - so, the propellers - are turned off." A multicopter with four propellers, it can take off and land vertically, increasing its accuracy. UPSOT: TAKEOFF The drone can be flattened in seconds, cutting its volume by 92 percent, and fits inside a backpack. SOUNDBITE (English) PRZEMYSLAW KORNATOWSKI, PHD STUDENT AND DRONE DEVELOPER, SAYING: "The parcel is placed inside, also for safety. We just remove the package and we fold the whole drone quite easily just with one single movement like this. Thanks to that all the elements are inside of the folded cage also, so for transportation we have all the elements safe and protected. When we deploy, all the structure deploys quite fast." The software includes self-flying programs, while flight plans can be created to avoid obstacles. The drone can be tracked in real time on tablet or smartphone and return to base autonomously. Its maker says it can reach destinations that other delivery drones cannot, like collapsed buildings. Companies like Amazon and Google are among those developing delivery drones. There remain question marks over the technology's economic viability while payloads remain small. The EPFL drone can deliver a parcel weighing half a kilogram for two kilometres. Work continues on increasing its range and payload weight.