A drone that mimics the way birds fold and flap their wings could improve the design of future unmanned autonomous vehicles , and could even help the machines withstand midair collisions.
Most winged animals have a wrist joint that enables the tips of their wings to fold in, allowing the animals to tuck their wings when navigating in and around tight spaces. This also helps prevent injuries from accidental collisions with branches or other animals' wings, because it lessens the force of the impact as the wing bends inwards.
Now, researchers at Stanford University have designed a 3D-printed hinge inspired by this wrist joint. The scientists incorporated the synthetic joint into the carbon fiber skeleton of a drone with flapping wings that are covered in a membrane-type film inspired by bats.