When a pufferfish feels threatened, the marine animal makes itself larger by inflating its body like a balloon. Drawing inspiration from this undersea creature’s defense mechanism, a group of engineers has developed an innovative structure that can solve some of the safety issues related to drones.
Though they are becoming increasingly useful, the problem with drones is that their exposed whirling propellers can get damaged in collisions, and inflict injuries on bystanders.
To address this problem, engineers at the University of Colorado Boulder have developed the “PufferBot”, a hovering drone that’s been outfitted with a plastic shield. Inspired by the pufferfish, the shield expands itself at a moment’s notice, preventing dangerous collisions between people and machines.
In regular flight, the shield, which is made out of hoops of plastic fastened to its top, is folded close to the drone’s body. But when the drone’s proximity sensors detect that a person (or anything else) is getting too close, the PufferBot extends the plastic hoops over its spinning rotors, preventing them from hurting people or getting damaged by obstacles.