Created by Dr. Paul Pounds at the University of Queensland, Australia, the drones are designed to be so cheaply manufactured that they can be single-use, disposable robots.
The first design, modeled after a paper plane, is created from a cellulose sheet that has electronic circuits ink-jet printed directly onto its body. Once the circuits have been laid on the plane’s frame, the craft is exposed to a UV curing process, turning the planes body into a flexible circuit board. These circuits are then connected to the planes “avionics system”, two elevons attached to the rear of the craft, which give the UAV the ability to steer itself to its destination.
The second design from Dr. Pounds’ lab is named the Samara. It’s an odd looking UAV designed to mimic a maple seed. The Samara is built from a rigid circuit board with sensors housed on a tiny round PCB at its leading end.
The proposed use for the Samara is to drop a huge number of them from a larger vehicle to survey a vast swath of land. Because of its unique design the Samara would fall gently to the ground, rotating like a helicopter’s blades, collecting valuable environmental information on its way back to Earth.
Whether Dr. Pounds’ designs ever see full scale production is still to be seen. However, as more researchers, corporations and militaries look to big data for ways to understand complex systems, UAVs like these could be in high demand.