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Wednesday, February 1st, 2017

San Francisco-based research company Otherlab is developing a new concept for disposable delivery drones made of cardboard.

The project is funded by the US Defense Advanced Research Agency (DARPA), and it aims to develop drones which can be used to deliver medical supplies and other cargo to remote or hard-to-reach locations.

The drone is designed to make only an outward journey – no returns – and then be discarded.  The fact that the drone only has to make a one-way trip will extend its range. The vehicle’s primary method of propulsion will be gliding.

The project is connect to DARPA’s Inbound, Controlled, Air-Releasable, Unrecoverable Systems (ICARUS) programme.

The name “ICARUS” was chosen for reasons that will appeal to Classical scholars. Icarus was the boy who flew too close to the sun when trying out a set of wings devised by his ingenious father, Daedalus.

As DARPA’s Dr Roy Olsson explained: “The ICARUS program is driven by a vision of vanishing air vehicles that can make precise deliveries of critical supplies and then vaporize into thin air.

“The millennia-old Icarus story ends badly when the protagonist, soaring with youthful abandon on wings of feather and wax, flies too close to the sun and then falls and drowns in the ocean as his wings disintegrate. The ICARUS program aims to mimic the material transience that led to Icarus’ demise, but field that capacity in scenarios with more uplifting endings.”

On its own website, Otherlab said that disposable drone project “pushes the limits of what’s possible with autonomous aerial vehicle design”.

The disposable drone is just one of many projects on the go at Otherlab that may be interesting to the post and parcel industry. The research group is working on load-carrying bicycles and three-wheelers, robotics systems and also “exoskeleton tech” (which enables people lift heavier weights, without fear of injury).


Source: DARPA, Otherlab and Recode

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