3D Robotics

3689536822?profile=originalFrom Engineering.com

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.

(via MakerBlock)

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  • I'm expecting eventually they'll genetically engineer a giant flying insect.  The electronics to control it will be printed on a substrate or sumtin and the insect grows and develops around the electronics to include hijacking its brain.

  • Well, they don't look like paper, but as in all things with the new economy, it's more about symbolism than reality.

    More intriguing than the "paper" aspect was that they're the simplest things which can fly. They're unpowered. There's just enough resolution in the photos to see the airplane uses 2 stock Plantraco actuators. The monocopter doesn't seem to have control.

    Obviously, they're not autonomous. They could be useful for plotting temperature & humidity vs. altitude. They couldn't plot air pressure vs. altitude because air pressure is needed to determine altitude. There's a chance of using them to plot radio reception for a different radio than the one used for flying. Cameras aren't quite small enough to fit on there.

  • The whole idea of 'disposable' anything reeks of negligence. Samara is a neat design, but deploying them means littering on an enormous scale- these aren't exactly biodegradable, and critters will unknowingly ingest them for sure. 

  • Granted, at 10+ cm, the current version is significantly bigger than a maple seed. I think bio-electronics could be the next revolution in this type of work. A bee is a pretty effective, self fueling, biodegradable drone.
  • Very cool. The only problem I see with them being, "disposable," is their ability to break down over time. We live in a society where cheap, disposable items are cluttering up the environment. While I am no tree hugger, I do find a level of concern. For example, maple seed sized and shaped electronics dropped over a forest for monitoring, could be detrimental to the local fauna, which might eat them. Running an experiment which could change variables unintentionally is not good science.
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