Drone Uses Origami Arm to Retrieve Items

Source: blogs.discovermagazine.com

Drones in today’s world is nothing new, as you can come across one being advertised online, on TV or even being flown both indoors and outdoors.  However, for drones to be competitive, it must do something that others do not.  Well, a team of researchers has accomplished this with their creation of a drone that uses an origami arm that can easily retrieve items from above.

Writer Lauren Sigfusson posted several days ago about a unique drone that can-do things that other drones before it could not.  This unique drone was given a functioning arm that enables it to provide a hand in gathering certain items or could enter areas that are considered tight.

Source: blogs.discovermagazine.com

Researchers Develop Origami Arm for Drone

Using inspiration gained through origami, a group of researchers hailing from Seoul National University in Korea designed an arm that can be deployed and attaches easily to a drone; the arm can unfurl when needed.  Previously, designs inspired by origami were limited due to them being not structurally sound.  Fortunately, researchers discovered a method that enables arms to become both stiff and fold-able.

The extender, as a whole, weighs roughly half-a-pound.  The arm is comprised of seven actuators that are stacked, which are hollow 3D rectangles; they weigh roughly one ounce and are roughly four inches long. 

When completely folded, it is just about one-and-a-half inches long while able to extend to roughly twenty-eight inches.  The folding and unfolding is controlled by a motor wired through the actuators; the arms appear to unfold seamlessly.

When it extends, the arm’s stiffness is surprising as it is accomplished by a thin rectangular piece known as a locker; this is nested within one of the origami creases, so it can reinforce the structure when it unfolds.  Interestingly, the researchers discovered the locking mechanism to be five times more resistant to bending, while being two hundred times more resistant to becoming squished than if it was without any lockers.

Source: blogs.discovermagazine.com

Fold-able Robots are Gaining Popularity

Another writer, Alessandra Potenza from The Verge, also discussed the origami arm and referenced a study about it that came out several days ago.  The study came out in Science Robotics and gave some examples of how it could be useful, such as taking photos from a higher elevation when equipped with a camera or using its’ finger-like grippers, it would be able to grab an object lying on the bottom of a ditch. 

The study co-author, Kyu Jin Cho, who id the director of the Soft Robotics Research Center at Seoul National University, commented on how folding, packaging of everyday things are everywhere.  He said in an email to The Verge that why not for robots?

Increasing in popularity, foldable robots are being experimented on to see what they can be used for.  Also known as origami robots, researchers located at MIT have built an origami robot that is swallow-able as it is made of meat.  This, as well as creating origami exoskeletons, allow there to be versatility with these tiny bots.

Another type of robot comes from Harvard University as engineers have turned to kirigami for inspiration.  Known as the Japanese art of cutting paper, this doesn’t require folding but creating artificial snakeskin that allows a robot that is soft to crawl forward.

Source: youtube.com

While this sounds like a great feat of engineering, the scientists unfortunately ran into several issues when attempting to increase the length of the arm as well as it can only go down straight.  Once researchers can increase the length as well as giving it the ability to reach in more directions, then interest in it will peak.

Now that the groundwork has been set for a drone to have the ability to use an origami arm, the hope will be to enhance what the arm can ultimately accomplish.  Adding things such as a gimbal camera or attached grabber, the arm could assist a drone to inspect bridges, chimney’s and pipes as well as gathering samples from a terrain where scientists would have a difficult time reaching; now that would be something worth talking about!