Anybody who has flown a drone in the past has had to replace propellers and other parts after an accident. EPFL researchers have come up with a hybrid insect-inspired drone that deforms upon impact. It uses stiff and flexible structures to adapt to its environment. As EPFL explains:
The drone’s resilience comes from a unique combination of stiff and elastic layers. An elastomer membrane is stretched and then sandwiched between rigid plates. When the system is at rest, the plates hold together and give the structure its stiffness. But when enough force is applied, the plates draw apart and the structure can bend.
Such a structure builds up elastic potential energy when folded up, so it can unfold automatically when required. This technology can also be used to make better grippers.