When we think of drones - nay unmanned aerial vehicles - we typically picture military drones or those ubiquitous quadrotors. However, two new mini-drone designs are taking shape: a paper airplane and a maple seed.
Led by Paul Pounds from the University of Queensland, a team of roboticists created both designs to help record atmospheric conditions in the event of a forest fire. The disposable, self-steering drones are essentially sensor modules that can be dropped over a forested area to relay environmental data that could indicate potential for fire.
The first prototype looks exactly like a standard paper airplane, only this one's made of biodegradable cellulose material. Once deployed from a larger aircraft, the so-called Polyplane drone steers itself using tabs attached to the back of each wing. An onboard control system bends each tab to direct the craft as close as possible to a pre-determined landing area. Because the circuits can be ink-jet printed directly into the paper-like material, key components can be glued, instead of soldered, onto the lightweight, foldable circuit board.