Nature designed insect bodies to be both rigid and flexible. Think of a fly, which can run repeatedly into a window and somehow evade a swatter time and again. Researchers at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland have used inspiration from those durable little insects to construct a quadcopter that will bend, not break, when it crashes.
By making the drone bodies soft rather than unyielding, they can crash into walls or any other environmental hazards without sustaining irreparable damage, particularly to their centers where the core of their power is held. These insect-like quadcopters are made of 0.3 mm-thin fiberglass external frame, with four magnetic joints that connect the frame to the central case, which was designed based on insects’ hard exoskeletons. When the drone crashes, the magnets are where it breaks, leaving both the external frame and the internal core unharmed. But elastic bands hold the frame close enough that the magnets can realign and snap back together. In a 2-meter-high drop test, the drone was able to maintain and quickly reassemble its shape.
Or as one report put it, this drone is unyielding and inflexible — until it needs to be.