Science and Technology Daily, Beijing, September 9 (Reporter Zhang Mengran) Researchers at the University of Washington have developed a small robotic device that can change the way they fly through the air by folding during the descent. The research results are published in a new issue of Science Robotics.

The miniature flying vehicle weighs about 400 milligrams, about half the weight of a nail. When dropped from a 40-metre breeze, it floats the distance of a football field. Each device is a battery-free design, with only solar collecting circuitry and controllers to trigger these shape changes in mid-air. They also carry onboard sensors to measure temperature, humidity, and other conditions during spikes.

According to the researchers, origami technology opens up a new design space for micro-flying vehicles, combining inspiration from leaf geometric patterns with energy harvesting and micro-actuators that can mimic the flight of different leaves in mid-air. In the unfolded flat state, the origami structure tumbles chaotically in the wind, resembling elm leaves; But switching to the folded state changes the airflow around it and achieves a steady descent, similar to how a maple leaf falls. This energy-efficient method allows battery-free control of the descent of micro-aircraft.

The team says the craft systems solve several design challenges, such as being stiff enough to avoid an accidental transition to a folded state before signaling; Another example is that the state can be quickly transitioned, and the device's on-board actuator only takes about 25 milliseconds to start folding; They can also change shape when not tethered to a power source, and power harvesting circuitry uses sunlight to provide energy.

Currently, micro-vehicles can only transition in one direction — from a tumbling state to a descending state, but allow researchers to control the landing of multiple microcraft at the same time. In the future, the device will be able to transition in both directions and will also support more precise landings in turbulent wind conditions.

【Editor-in-Chief Circle】

Robots are constantly improving! Their forms and functions are constantly iteratively upgraded, and their application scenarios are also expanding rapidly. In terms of form, its appearance is not only limited to manipulators, robotic arms, and humanoid robots, but also develops a variety of new forms; In terms of function, they not only chat, can handle assembly line production tasks, but also learn to draw, dance, perform surgery, etc.; From the perspective of application scenarios, they have penetrated into some more subdivided and professional scenarios, such as performing underground pipeline monitoring, in vivo drug delivery tasks, etc. These changes also mean that robotics increasingly needs to be deeply intersected and integrated with expertise in other fields.