DARPA is funding this venture which is practically seeking to utilize autonomous cardboard drones capable of carrying medical supplies as payload. When it comes to drones, their utilization in emergency situations and search and rescue missions makes a lot of sense. They can become a great help in conducting operations and accessing those place which are inaccessible and far flung. Even conflict-hit regions can be accessed by these UAVs for providing medical supplies.
However, the issue with drones is that they are not easy to buy because of being at the higher end of the price spectrum. In addition, their limited flight duration restricts their flight to only an amount of time until the battery runs out of juice. So, one is never certain whether a drone will be able to make its way back to the base station after accomplishing its task or even will it be able to complete its operation for that matter.
Here’s a question for you: will it work for you if the drone is not required to come back to the base station simply because it can be easily dispensed away with?
DARPA have successfully developed an autonomous drone made out of card that has the capability of travelling almost twice the distance that can be traversed by any fixed-distance aircraft. Since the drone is disposable, so it does not need to come back. It should be noted that DARPA are the United States military’s experimentation wing that have been involved in creating some of the most innovative technologies the world has ever seen.
According to Star Simpson, the aeronautics research engineer at Otherlab which is responsible for creating the paper drone believes that the aim when transporting medical supplies is always to send them as much as you can. So, if there are no batteries for the return trip of the device, that would give you ample space to stuff in more medical supplies onto the drone.
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This amazing autonomous drone is fitted with no motor or rotor and is akin to a glider. It, however, is fitted with a microprocessor and number of sensors that have been programmed to control the device’s flight and are located on its wings or rudders. These gadgets determine the landing point and the destination of the gizmo.
According to the project’s description shared by DARPA, this is part of its Inbound, Controlled, Air-Releasable, Unrecoverable Systems program (ICARUS) that is aimed at developing a device that has the ability to transport the required supplies at its destination and vanish as if it never existed.
Owing to the fact that these paper drones have no motors, so they are launched from a moving aircraft. However, they are not dropped with parachutes as will be the common perception. They are programmed impeccably to reach their destination as they glide into the air.
Star Simpson also told us that Otherlab are also working in close coordination with a biology research enterprise in developing a drone with the help of a mushroom-based material that is biodegradable.
ICARUS is part of DARPA’s larger Vanishing Programmable Resources initiative that pumps money into projects aiming to build devices that can vanish into thin air and become useless when activated.
DARPA have proved to be the instigators and pioneers in realising a number of innovative projects. In 2004, DARPA hosted the very first of its kind grand challenge for autonomous vehicles which ultimately served as a precursor to self-driving robotic car systems that are being introduced around the world by tech giants such as Google and Tesla. DARPA are also responsible for giving birth to the packing switching method that finally led to the development of what we call nowadays the Internet.
PARC, a Xerox research company that has received financial assistance from DARPA under its VAPR program has developed dissolving glass. Watch the video for yourself!