A new flying robot built to withstand mid-air crashes could play a key role helping disaster victims. The great minds at Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne created a flying spheroid robot that can simply bounce off obstacles and keep on moving to deliver goods or aid in search and rescue efforts. A flexible frame allows the robot to navigate incredibly complex environments that could result from a building collapse without the need for delicate sensors.
The Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne researchers wanted to create a robot that could move freely without needing to cautiously avoid obstacles. Inspired by the humble insect, they created a round cage-like frame surrounding a suspended base. The design allows the robot to hit a tree, wall or beam and simply adjust and get moving in the right direction, much like a fly or bee would. The cage absorbs the shock and allows the robot to roll and bounce harmlessly along in the air.
Because the robot doesn’t have to carry heavy sensors, it is super light, so it can go almost anywhere. At the same time, it can carry nearly 40 ounces of weight, so it could deliver necessary supplies to disaster victims. It can be equipped with a camera and remote-controlled, and it orients itself using components similar to those found in smartphones and tablets. Scientists are calling it Gimball, the crash-happy flying robot.