Edible Drones Could Help Survivors In Remote Areas Live And Survive

Design Boom

When it comes to natural disasters, the world has to brace themselves for the unexpected every single year. No one really always knows when disaster strikes or the kind of destruction these bring. Some are able to prepare themselves early enough.

Then, there are those people that have been faced with such potent disasters that they lose so much of what they’ve worked so hard for. They’re left with nothing but the will to survive while they wait for help to come their way.

When these things happen, help immediately takes action, but they also need to consider accessibility. What happens when they’re unable to reach these survivors on time? Well, this is where drones can be vital, especially during natural disasters. These are able to bring supplies to people who need it most. However, they can only carry around 30 percent of their mass as payload.

So, what if the delivery drones themselves were made of food? This is something that could make a difference. Researchers have developed a small flying craft with wings that are made of rice cakes.

The team at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL) chose to come up with the solution and make the wings that act both as functional for flight and as cargo at the same time. If this will be done, the drone that they’ll use may be able to deliver more life-sustaining nutrition or medication to those in need and are stranded in hard-to-reach area.

In order to design the wing, the rice cakes were laser-cut into several hexagonal shapes and stuck together with the use of gelatin. To keep these clean and safe, these are wrapped in a protective plastic before these are attached to the flying element.

Corn starch and corn starch with chocolate were used as adhesives during the trail phase, but they found that gelatin actually contained stronger properties. A prototype was made and they saw that the drone was able to fly 10 meters per second (or around 32 feet). With the success, the team wants to change other nonedible pieces. They suggested that structural components like aileron or rudder may possibly be 3D-printed made out of something edible.

The researchers are looking for methods that will allow them to transport water onboard. The wingspan that totals to around 27 inches (or 70 centimeters) contains just enough rice cake and gelatin glue to be able to supply the survivor with one breakfast serving, with 80 grams enough space for a payload of vitamins or water.

The lead author, Bokeon Kwak, told IEEE Spectrum that the wing tasted like “a crunchy rice crisp cookie with a little touch of raw gelatin.”

The research made was also documented in a study paper called Towards Edible Drones for Rescue Missions: Design and Flight of Nutritional Wings. In reality, this could actually be just one of the many applications of EPFL’s research initiative called RoboFood. Their goal is to be able to develop edible robots in a way that they’re able to take full advantage of performance and nutritional value in one method.

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