New Drone Prototype Compresses Itself to Squeeze Through Small Spaces Mid-Flight

With the popularity and accessibility of drones in recent years for everything from music videos, to photography, and even parcel delivery, designers are continuing to come up with creative ways in which to use them. Now, researchers have created a drone that shrinks mid-flight so it can squeeze through small spaces.

The team at UC Berkeley’s High Performance Robotics Laboratory (HiPeRLab) are behind the new invention. They have released a new video of their creation in action. For now, it’s only a prototype, but it certainly raises the question of drone capabilities in the near future.

So, how does it work? Sprung hinges replace the usual rigid connection between the arms and central body. This allows for the arms to fold when low thrusts are produced by the propellors. This halves the drone’s dimension.

When it squeezes through the smaller space, the drone’s propellor thrust gets reduced, and the arms fold in. Once through, the arms open back up and the propellors return to full power.

As per DPReview, this isn't the first drone that can compress its shape during flight, but it is the only one that can shift its shape without the aid of any additional hardware components, also helping to preserve battery.

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3 Comments

Will be good or military or police to deliver explosive goods through open window :)

Rob Mitchell's picture

These things are getting very clever. Far flung from the old days of crashing countless T-REX helis in the pursuit of trying to get a camera in the sky :)

Alex Herbert's picture

Yep, I remember buying an RC helicopter in the late 1990s. Even after months of practice on a simulator I could never set it up and trim it well enough to even get it into the air. Contrast that with the DJI Mavic I bought a while back. I had it in the air within seconds of opening the box. It's harder to crash it than to not crash it.