Is it a bird? is it a plane? No, it's … a drone that moves its wings!

Source: HW Upgrade added 01st Nov 2020

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Researchers at the Polytechnic University of Lausanne design a drone with foldable wings to obtain greater agility of maneuvering in flight greater autonomy thanks to the use of a single engine and some stratagem

by Andrea Bai published on , at 10: 01 in the Science and Technology channel

The human inventive genius, his engineering and visionary skills have allowed the construction of airplanes capable of crossing the sky at even supersonic speeds, but it has not yet been possible to design flying objects capable of moving in the air with the same agility and reactivity of a bird .

A group of researchers from the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland he then thought, as often happens in the field of engineering design, to be inspired by nature, designing a drone with mobile appendages capable of extending and retracting .

Drone with extendable wings: inspiration comes from a goshawk

The reactivity and agility in flight of a bird are capabilities possible thanks to the wings, which by extending and retracting allow it to quickly modify air resistance, lift and speed. This is not a completely new idea in the field of engineering applied to flight: fans of military aircraft will have immediately thought of the fighter Grumman F – 14 Tomcat with variable geometry wing, but it is of a relatively simple setup with the wings moving slowly as they extend or approach the aircraft fuselage.

EPFL researchers built a drone on the same concept over the course of 2016, but the new model is much improved from many points of view. First of all, the size and shape of the wings have been optimized to work more like that of a bird. The inspiration comes directly from the study of a astor . The researchers then integrated additional adjustable pens into the rear of the drone.

The According to research, the design of this particular drone could be better than that of the normal quadcopters on the market today which are designed and sized precisely to facilitate maneuverability, especially when they have to fly in an environment full of obstacles. Currently, however, and whoever owns one will know the problem well, the main limitation of quadcopters and their limited flight time since to fly they need propellers always in motion, which obviously affects the operating autonomy of the battery. The EPFL drone uses a single engine and can exploit the tricks of birds to save energy, such as for example to make more or less prolonged glides and exploit currents and thermals to stay at altitude without having to produce thrust.

One of the advantages over a fixed-wing aircraft is the ability to make quick turns, quick swoops and complex maneuvers with the same agility as a quadcopter. The ultimate goal is to design a drone that can have longer flight times than is possible with currently used approaches and that is able to move within obstacle environments, such as a forest or environment. urban. From this point of view, the application possibilities are numerous: from simple reconnaissance, to the delivery of correspondence and parcels to search and rescue operations.