An Experimental Flying 'Dragon' Drone Can Stretch Out and Perform Aerial Acrobatics

Thursday, 21 June 2018 - 7:21PM
Technology
Robotics
Thursday, 21 June 2018 - 7:21PM
An Experimental Flying 'Dragon' Drone Can Stretch Out and Perform Aerial Acrobatics
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YouTube/IEEE Spectrum
As drones continue to grow in popularity, the conventional quadcopter design is easily the most common type of drone you'll come across. And it's easier to think there's nothing any fancier out there.

But pity anyone interested in drones who never gets to see this drone inspired by a dragon, a flexible and agile flying machine created by researchers from the University of Tokyo. Composed of several modules, each with their own direction-changing thrusters, the dragon is able to fold itself in and stretch itself out and contort itself through tight obstacles as it soars around like Falkor from The Neverending Story.

See it in action below:



The drone's actual name is DRAGON, which is somehow supposed to stand for "Dual-Rotor embedded multilink Robots of multi-degree-of-freedom aerial transformation", but ignoring the odd naming conventions, the drone is fascinating. In the video above, you can see a short demonstration of DRAGON shifting its modules around before it glides its elongated body through a small hole in an obstacle course.

Currently, DRAGON is composed only of a few separate modules, but the researchers hope to eventually make it much longer, being composed of up to 12 modules that can alter their thrusters independently of each other. Describing DRAGON as having the maneuverability of a "flying human arm", University of Tokyo assistant professor Moju Zhao said the following to Digital Trends:

Opening quote
"DRAGON does not have to contact with the ground, so the motion freedom is higher than other multi-linked robots from two aspects: Mobility and manipulation ability."
Closing quote


And like many drones, DRAGON is currently limited by its charge time of about three minutes, but that may improve in the future as well. If it does, DRAGON could become an extremely versatile model of unmanned aerial vehicles.

Besides, any robot dragons are cool in our book.

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