Sun. Sep 24th, 2023
    Scientists Create Origami Microfliers for Controlled Flight

    Scientists at the University of Washington have developed tiny electronic devices called “microfliers” that fold like origami paper in midair to change their flight patterns. Inspired by the way leaves fall through the air, these adorable micros weigh less than a small nail and are equipped with a programmable microcontroller, a Bluetooth radio, a solar power-harvesting circuit, a pressure sensor, and a temperature sensor.

    When dropped from a high-altitude object, the microfliers rely on the wind to disperse. By utilizing the Miura-ori origami fold, they can change their shape and size, allowing them to navigate through the air like different types of leaves. The microfliers can be controlled remotely via Bluetooth, or they can be programmed to descend using an onboard timer or altitude sensor.

    The use of origami in their design not only provides a unique aesthetic but also allows for energy-efficient flight control. When unfolded, the microfliers tumble chaotically in the wind, similar to an elm leaf. However, when folded, the change in airflow enables a stable descent, mimicking the way a maple leaf falls. This innovative design feature enables battery-free control over the microfliers’ flight, a feat not previously possible.

    The microfliers, powered by solar energy, are about the size of a postage stamp. With their lightweight design, they can cover impressive distances when dropped from a significant height. In a light breeze, they can travel the length of a football field after being released from a height of 40 meters.

    The potential applications for these microfliers are vast. They could be used to collect environmental data such as temperature and humidity, aiding in various research endeavors. However, concerns have been raised about potential misuse, with fears of their use in intrusive surveillance. Regardless, the origami design of these microfliers proves to be an innovative approach, opening up new possibilities in the world of miniature flying devices.

    – University of Washington
    – Science Robotics