Drones are constantly evolving to be increasingly more useful and easy to operate. We have already showed you the Lily camera drone that follows you around, a hydrogen-powered drone that flies for 4 hours, and even an ambulance drone. Now it’s time for MIT to surprise us with an origami drone that folds itself up to assume its final form, which really does resemble the mythical Japanese art of folding paper.
[Photo: Evan Ackerman/IEEE Spectrum]
The researchers at MIT developed this miniature robot powered exclusively by magnets. The tiny origami drone not only folds itself up but can also swim, carry objects twice its own weight and when you’ve run out of things to do with it, it can dive into a pool of acetone and dissolve.
It starts out as a flat polystyrene square with 1.7 cm sides. On the super-thin sheet is placed a small magnet, causing the structure to weigh 0.31 grams. When subjected to heat such as the palm of your hand, the drone starts to bend itself into shape until its ready to move. But the movement doesn’t happen autonomously. The drone must be on the same surface as the four electromagnetic coils that control it. They continuously attract and repel the magnet, causing it to rattle. Due to the robot’s irregular shape and edges, it starts to “walk”, reaching a speed of 3 to 4 cm per second.
Once the robot is done with its task, just drive it into a tank of acetone and it’s structure will dissolve entirely, leaving behind the magnet. The MIT team hopes to build models that will dissolve entirely, not leaving any traces behind, and that are able to walk or swim independently.