We’ve accomplished a lot with drones so far, whether they’re clearing power lines with fire, putting on light shows, or saving dogs that got stuck in drains. These achievements, and virtually everything else worthwhile that drones have ever done, have one thing in common, though: They all took place outdoors. Drones do well in big open spaces, but when it comes to the small confines of the great indoors, they’re not quite as nimble. Some smart folks at the University of Tokyo decided to address this, and the solution they came up with is pretty fascinating (via BoingBoing).
The robot in the video above is appropriately called DRAGON, the name of which is derived from “Dual-rotor embedded multilink Robot with the Ability of multi-deGree-of-freedom aerial transformatiON” and is a real stretch of an acronym. Regardless, it does what a lot of drones can’t: Decide by itself what shape it should transform itself into in order to best navigate its environment. As the technology develops, it’s also possible that it will be able to be used as a flying arm that can pick up objects.
“DRAGON is able to autonomously decide how to transform when given the constraints of the space it needs to pass through. There’s more potential here than just fitting through small spaces, though: The researchers conceptualize this robot as a sort of overactuated flying arm that can both form new shapes and use those shapes to interact with the world around it by manipulating objects. Eventually, DRAGON will wiggle through the air with as many as 12 interlinked modules, and it’ll use its two ends to pick up objects like a two-fingered gripper. And we can imagine DRAGON wrapping itself around stuff to move it, or using direct contact with the environment to do other exciting things.”
What do you think of DRAGON? Can this robot bring drones to the next level? Let us know what you think down in the comments!
Featured image: IEEE Spectrum/YouTube