One of the jobs robots are being groomed for is disaster relief. When we're in need, robots will be capable of reaching us anywhere on the globe, in mere hours. In ways humans can't, they'll be able to locate us amongst rubble, deliver food and medicine, and get us back on our feet.
Small, agile drones will be among some of the first robots on the scene. But navigating debris fields and crumbling buildings in search of survivors presents a number of challenges. The average drone can't take an impact from falling debris or bounce it's way through tight passages. That's why the folks at the Laboratory of Intelligent Systems at EPFL have worked up designs for drones that can take a hit and keep on flying.
Named GimBall and AirBurr, both drones are outfitted with what amount to roll-cages. The drones each handle impacts differently, but both are capable of bouncing back. The AirBurr is designed to mimic the capabilities of a fly: taking an impact, righting itself, and then taking off again. It can even perch on walls thanks to a sticky substance modeled on gecko toes.
The GimBall, on the other hand, is designed to be incapable of being upturned by impacts. Its spherical roll cage is rigged to rotate passively when struck. This means that, while the roll cage itself could be sent spinning, the orientation of the drone inside is unaffected. This allows the GimBall to impact numerous surfaces without ever being knocked out of the sky, and as the video shows, this drone can handle a lot of abuse.