Register for an account

X

Enter your name and email address below.

Your email address is used to log in and will not be shared or sold. Read our privacy policy.

X

Website access code

Enter your access code into the form field below.

If you are a Zinio, Nook, Kindle, Apple, or Google Play subscriber, you can enter your website access code to gain subscriber access. Your website access code is located in the upper right corner of the Table of Contents page of your digital edition.

Technology

Drones Get Grabby With an Origami Arm

Drone360By Lauren SigfussonMarch 14, 2018 10:08 PM
(Credit: Kim et al., Sci. Robot. 3, eaar2915 (2018))
(Credit: Kim et al., Sci. Robot. 3, eaar2915 (2018))

Newsletter

Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news

We all know drones offer unique views from above, but give ‘em a hand and they can do a whole lot more. With a functioning arm they could better enter tight areas or lend a hand in gathering samples.

Taking inspiration from origami, a team of researchers from Seoul National University in Korea created a deployable arm that easily attaches to a drone and unfurls when needed. In the past, origami-inspired designs were limited because they aren’t exactly structurally sound. Researchers, however, found a way to make arms both fold-able and stiff.

The arm is made of seven stacked actuators, which are basically hollow 3D rectangles that weigh about 1 ounce and are almost 4 inches long. All together, the extender weighs about half a pound.

When folded, it’s about 1.5 inches long and can extend to almost 28 inches. A motor wired through the actuators controls the folding and unfolding. And I have to say, that arms unfolds pretty seamlessly.

The arm is surprisingly stiff when extended thanks to a thin rectangular piece called a locker, which is nested in one of the origami creases to reinforce the structure as it unfolds. In fact, researchers found the locking mechanism is five times more resistant to bending and 200 times more resistant to being squished than those without lockers.

Though, scientists ran into a few issues when trying to make the arm longer and it only goes straight down. Add some more length and the ability go in more directions, then we’ll really be talking. Hopefully the kinks can be worked out — with an attached grabber or gimbal camera, this arm could help drones inspect chimneys, pipes, bridges, and even gather samples in terrain not easy for scientists to reach.

The research was outlined in a paper released Wednesday in Science Robotics.

2 Free Articles Left

Want it all? Get unlimited access when you subscribe.

Subscribe

Already a subscriber? Register or Log In

Want unlimited access?

Subscribe today and save 70%

Subscribe

Already a subscriber? Register or Log In