Mon. Jul 22nd, 2024

A drone with a flexible frame has been trained to squeeze through narrow openings

Natasha Kumar By Natasha Kumar Jul3,2024

Drone with a flexible frame taught to squeeze through narrow openings

Engineers from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology have developed the Morphy quadcopter, which has a deformed frame and is able to squeeze through narrow openings on the fly and withstand collisions with obstacles at high speed. Each of the beams of the drone frame is attached to the central part of the body through an elastic connection with a built-in Hall sensor. Data from these sensors is processed by an algorithm in real time, which allows the drone to dynamically adjust the thrust of all four propellers, keeping it in the air, despite the deformation of the frame. This reports   New Atlas.

Problems of flying in limited space

Multicopter drones usually have difficulties when flying in limited space. Indoors and in closed conditions there are many obstacles and narrow openings. The development of a drone that would combine resistance to collisions, the ability to fly through narrow spaces and simplicity of construction is a difficult task.

Engineers have long been looking for ways to make drones more impact-resistant by developing a variety of propeller and body protection systems. Most of these solutions increase the mass and dimensions of the drone or do not provide sufficient protection in case of strong impacts. Another problem – in space-constrained environments, the size of drones can severely limit their ability to penetrate narrow, hard-to-reach areas.

Morphy's innovative approach

A team of engineers led by Kostas Alexis from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology proposed a new approach. Each of the four spokes of the Morphy frame is attached to the body with a flexible joint printed on a 3D printer from an elastic material. Inside each of these flexible joints is a Hall sensor that measures the direction and degree of bending of the beam.

When it hits an obstacle, the Morphy frame beam bends instead of breaking. Data from the Hall sensor is sent to the on-board eight-core microprocessor, which adjusts the thrust of all four propellers, maintaining the stability and controllability of the apparatus. This allows the drone to absorb impacts when it collides with obstacles, as well as squeeze through horizontal and vertical gaps that are narrower than its body size.

Morphy looks like an ordinary drone with a mass of 260 grams and a beam span of 252 millimeters. Propellers are protected by ring bumpers made of plastic. Flight time on one battery charge is more than twelve minutes. In addition to Hall sensors, the drone is equipped with a camera and a ToF sensor. A high ratio of thrust to weight (3.3) provides the quadcopter with good maneuverability, and a powerful processor allows you to perform complex control algorithms and simultaneously process data from sensors in real time.

Experimental tests

To test Morphy's capabilities, engineers conducted a series of experiments. In the first of them, the drone was guided along a straight path, forcing it to collide with the wall at a speed of up to three meters per second. Morphy successfully weathered the collision, maintaining controllability and flight stability. In separate tests, the drone demonstrated the ability to withstand impacts at a speed of up to 7.6 meters per second.

In the second experiment, Morphy had to fly through a horizontal gap that was smaller than the size of its body. The drone's flexible beams allowed it to deform and squeeze through the obstacle, continuing stable flight. In the third experiment, Morphy passed through a vertical gap, also narrower than its body, successfully coping with the task.

According to the creators, Morphy represents a new class of drones. Collisions with obstacles that were previously avoided have become an acceptable risk for him, and areas that were impassable for drones with a rigid structure, Morphy can overcome due to the deformation of the body. This opens up new opportunities for using drones in difficult conditions and limited space.

Natasha Kumar

By Natasha Kumar

Natasha Kumar has been a reporter on the news desk since 2018. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining The Times Hub, Natasha Kumar worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my 1-800-268-7116

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