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When Being Soft Makes You Tough: A Collision Resilient Quadcopter Inspired by Arthropod Exoskeletons

03/07/2021
by   Ricardo de Azambuja, et al.
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Flying robots are usually rather delicate, and require protective enclosures when facing the risk of collision. High complexity and reduced payload are recurrent problems with collision-tolerant flying robots. Inspired by arthropods' exoskeletons, we design a simple, easily manufactured, semi-rigid structure with flexible joints that can withstand high-velocity impacts. With an exoskeleton, the protective shell becomes part of the main robot structure, thereby minimizing its loss in payload capacity. Our design is simple to build and customize using cheap components and consumer-grade 3D printers. Our results show we can build a sub-250g, autonomous quadcopter with visual navigation that can survive multiple collisions at speeds up to 7m/s that is also suitable for automated battery swapping, and with enough computing power to run deep neural network models. This structure makes for an ideal platform for high-risk activities (such as flying in a cluttered environment or reinforcement learning training) without damage to the hardware or the environment.

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