At the international conference IEEE / RSJ on robots and intelligent systems, held in Kyoto last week, researchers from theEPFL, the Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne, presented an ingenious creation: an edible drone made of rice cakes. No, I'm not kidding. And it is no small thing.
The article written by Bokeon Kwak, Jun Shintake, Lu Zhang e Dario Floreano EPFL is called "Toward edible drones for rescue missions: designing and flying nutritional wings". He describes an edible drone capable of "increasing its food load from 30 to 50% of its mass".
The edible drone was designed byingenious institute to be used in rescue missions where people are stranded and need food. The team believes the drone could be used to deliver food to people in disaster areas or to soldiers in combat zones.
Do you really need it? Indeed, the drone could turn the tables on those without access to food. Current drones developed for food delivery may not be able to do an efficient job. While they have sufficient range for use within cities, they may not be able to withstand long distances or in remote locations.
The edible drone, on the other hand, is not only able to reach a person, but it delivers food immediately, ensuring less waste. When a drone is asked to carry something, most of what is moved is the drone. Most aircraft carry about 30% of its mass as a payload.
This is why the idea of making an edible wing could be a winner
Puffed rice is a great alternative to polypropylene foam for drones. It is strong and lightweight, very similar to expanded polypropylene (EPP), commonly used as a material for drone wings.
Rice is also "cheap, convenient, easy to laser cut," while having a "respectable" calorie density, the researchers say. "Achieving sufficient mechanical properties while maintaining a low weight (with food materials) was the main design criterion for the edible wing. We can expand the design criteria to contain more calories by using fat-based materials such as edible wax; fats they have more calories per gram than protein and carbohydrates, ”Kwak said.
How is the edible drone created?
The first step is to laser cut round rice cakes into hexagons, so they can stick together more easily, to make the wing. The jelly acts as a glue, and after drying, the wing is packed in plastic and molded to ensure it doesn't fall apart in humid or wet environments.
Interestingly, the size of the edible wing depends on the nutritional requirement. A wingspan of about 70 centimeters will be enough to provide 300 kcal, the equivalent of a portion for breakfast.
Obviously you can't eat the whole drone: the structure and tail surfaces are made of carbon fiber and foam. By bringing back the "cockpit", however, these drones (which can fly at about 10 meters per second) can be equipped with a new edible wing and sent on a mission again.
Researchers are now working on structural components, such as the wing control surfaces, which will be "made of edible material by 3D printing or molding of food," says Kwak. Other aspects that will be considered are an edible / water resistant coating on the edible food surface and edible wing degradation test.
A godsend 2.0.