They invent the edible drone to save lives


While drones sold to the general public are most often used to take aerial photos and videos, researchers and companies are constantly finding other uses for these flying machines.

For example, companies like Alphabet (Google) or Amazon are working on drone delivery services. These allow users to order their groceries online, then the package is dropped off by a drone at their home.

Otherwise, drones are already being used in some parts of the world to deliver vaccines or medicines to remote areas that are difficult to reach by road. And in Switzerland, researchers have developed an edible drone that could save lives.

A drone with edible wings

If a person gets lost or has an accident in an area that is difficult to access, and if we know their location, we can now use multicopter drones to deliver food to them. Indeed, like delivery drones from Amazon or Google, this type of device can carry a load (food) and drop it off, before returning to its base.

But the problem with multicopter drones is that they don’t have a very long range. To reach long distances, it is better to use drones with wings, which are more like mini-planes.

However, these drones with wings cannot carry large loads. According to an article in New Atlas, this type of drone can generally only carry a load corresponding to 10 to 30% of its weight.

And to overcome this problem, Swiss researchers from the EPFL institute have imagined a drone with edible parts. In essence, so that the person to be rescued does not starve, they would be sent a drone whose fixed wings are edible.

While waiting for help, you can eat the drone

The researchers chose wings because these take up a lot of space on fixed-wing drones. Normally these fenders are made with a lightweight material, such as propylene foam.

On the partially edible drone, EPFL researchers replaced propylene with puffed rice cakes, which have similar mechanical properties. The patties have been cut into hexagonal pieces, which are then glued together using edible gelatin to form the wings. Chocolate was also tested, but it was not sticky enough.

edible drone

© Bokeon Kwak

And everything is wrapped with a plastic film, to protect these edible wings from humidity during the flight. Result, we have a functional drone with a wingspan of 678 mm, which flies at 10 meters per second. In addition to bringing food, the drone can also carry 80 grams of water.

In all, the two wings provide 300 kilocalories, which is equivalent to a breakfast. But besides the fact that it is possible to develop a larger version, we could also send several drones at the same time for more kilocalories.

“Until now, the amount of food that existing drones could carry was limited to the payload”said the team behind this invention. “However, an edible drone can significantly overcome this payload limitation, thanks to the recreation of certain body structures with food materials.”

Indeed, edible wings are just the beginning. The researchers would like to tackle other components.

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