Ultralight Drone Inspired By Maple Seeds



“Maple seeds” by wolf4max is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

By: Lena Tosounidis, Journalist

At the City University of Hong Kong, researchers have developed a tiny drone that was inspired by the structure of a maple seed pod. Also known as “helicopter seeds,” samaras are known for spinning and twirling through the air as they fall to the ground. Their two-bladed design has proved to help the little pods travel long distances.

Weighing in at 35 grams, this tiny drone hovered for over 24 minutes while running on a 650 milliamp hour battery. Much like maple seed pods, this robot has two wings, but it has small motors as well, which are used to rotate the device. The motors allow the drone to hover above the ground and perform certain maneuvers. The researchers also tested the robot’s ability to carry a load. It managed to carry a camera, which was able to produce usable footage. The problem with the drone footage was that the camera rotated as the device did, so the researchers had to match the frame rate with the rate of rotation, which was around 200 rpm. The drone also succeeded in carrying a 21.5 gram device for mapping and surveillance.

Pakpong Chirarattananon, one of the study’s authors, says “The most exciting thing about this study is the vast improvement in the robot’s endurance. Relative to other lightweight robots weighing less than 100 grams, the rotary-wing robot roughly doubles the flight time.” The controls for this drone still need to be refined, so they aren’t on the market yet, but if all goes to plan, they’ll be for sale within the next three to five years. This just goes to show that sometimes the most ingenuitive new designs come from something we always had: nature.






Maple seeds, inspiration for the design of a two-winged drone


Take Action: