IIIT Hyderabad researchers create a drone capable of changing shape and fit the size of a package
Researchers from the Robotics Research Centre at the International Institute of Information Technology Hyderabad (IIITH) have created a working prototype of a flexible drone that is capable of changing its shape to fit the size of a package that has to be lifted.
Suraj Bonagiri, a 24 year old robotics researcher has been working on this project under the guidance of Professor Spandan Roy and Professor Madhava Krishna. He also highlighted the limitations of the existing delivery drones and proposed a novel design, said the institution in a blog post.
“Current design of such drones focuses only on the weight of parcels to be lifted ignoring their size. Packages however come in various sizes and is an important parameter to be factored in.” said Suraj
He further added that since drones are typically designed to carry specific payloads, forcibly fitting and lifting inappropriate payloads will lead to instability, loss in efficiency and could even compromise on safety.
He calls this drone ‘Elasticopter’ this drone can grip and match the shape of the parcel which has to be lifted. The mechanism of this drone which is capable of expanding or collapsing, it can grip and match the shape of the parcel which has to be lifted. With the help of this method of attachment to the cargo, the mass is always cantered which would result in optimal usage of battery performance. It is also extremely stable due to the unique positioning of the propellers. Added the blog post.
“In our design, there is zero propwash interference with the payload no matter its size”, said Suraj.
He further explained the superiority of Elasticoper comparing it to the current drones by giving an example of how even if the existing drones are able to lift and deliver the packages of varying shapes their battery life is short lived as it is not done in a optimal manner. This is especially seen when there are large scale delivery operations.
Suraj approached Product Labs with his idea of Elasticoper and was suggested to enroll for the Technology Product entrepreneurship course (TPE).
“For us, this is a text book case of taking research to the market. And also something that we’ve always wanted to see happen, that is, our students taking their research forward to build products leading to startups. It’s exciting to see some deep research taking shape,” said Prakash Yalla, Head, Project Labs.
Suraj also won a productization grant of 8 lakh from the institute for the initial prototype that he had built. He leveraged the Maker’s Lab and is now pre- incubated at Project Labs.
”We see folks who want to apply a new Deep Learning architecture to an existing problem or work on a novel application in Computer Vision or bring in concepts from Optimization Theory to existing robotic problems. But Suraj was possibly the first in last several years to take the bull by its horns and we are very glad that he is beginning to find success in his endeavors,” said professor Krishna.
According to Ramesh Loganathan, Prof. Co-Innovation who heads Outreach at IIITH mentioned that Elasticoper will be highly useful in warehouses, on manufacturing floors, e- commerce supply chain operations, medicine delivery and places where there are packages of different sizes and requires frequent movement.
Elasticoper requires minimum storage space and the researchers are looking forward to its relevance and acceptability to other universal drone applications as well.
“I’d like to think of it as a multi-purpose drone. From a large agricultural spray tank for aerial spraying of fertilizers and pesticides to a megaphone for disseminating public information about the Covid-19 vaccination programme or a lockdown situation, the sky is the limit in its application”, added Suraj.