Drone Has Bird-Like Wings

Swiss researchers have taken inspiration from nature by designing a drone whose wings have artificial feathers.

The Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne’s drone mirrors the way a bird not only has feathers but can fold its wings. The idea is to make the drone more versatile and increase overall performance.

The big difference is that the combination of the folding wings and overlapping feathers allows the drone to alter the wings’ surface area by up to 41 percent. By switching the wings from fully extended to fully retracted, the drone increases its top speed by 20 percent, but also increases its turning radius by almost 70 percent.

That’s not a problem as the way a drone operates means that usually it needs to prioritize either speed or maneuvrability and rarely needs to find a balance between the two.

Another benefit is that the drone can turn by simply folding only one wing (and thus rolling to turn like a bird) rather than needing ailerons like a plane. The researchers believe this method may be more efficient for sharp turns and could be particularly useful given that drones operate at a lower altitude than planes and need to adjust to more rapid changes in wind.

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