A research team from Switzerland-based École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) has developed a new drone using an origami-inspired design.

Designed to deliver various products such as letters, medicine, first-aid supplies and food, the drone can fold and unfold its frame in a single movement.

Once flattened, the drone’s volume is reduced by 92%, enabling users to easily transport the vehicle.

Designed at EPFL’s Laboratory of Intelligent Systems with fund from NCCR Robotics, the drone features various innovations to ensure a safe and autonomous flight.

Equipped with vertical take-off and land capabilities, the drone is capable of delivering parcels weighing up to 500g over a distance of 2km.

"We are exploring possibilities to increase the drone’s payload capacity and enhance its autonomy."

EPFL doctoral assistant and drone developer Przemyslaw Kornatowski said: “This project is a work in progress, in addition to strengthening its ability to detect and avoid objects, we are exploring possibilities to increase the drone’s payload capacity and enhance its autonomy.

“Throughout the summer, we tested our human-friendly, drone-delivery system on the EPFL campus, delivering items to people over 150 test flights.”

The new origami-styled drone also features a specially designed self-flying software to avoid obstacles such as trees and buildings during flight.

It can be tracked in real-time using a tablet or smartphone. Following the completion of a delivery, the drone is capable of returning to its own destination.

According to the developer, the drone wraps around the cargo before making a flight. A foldable carbon-fibre cage is also included to protect the drone and the cargo in the event of a collision or fall.

The recipient of the package can catch the drone mid-flight without sustaining any injuries by the propellers, which are located within the structure and have a safety system to stop once the cage is opened.

Image: Origami-inspired drone. Photo: courtesy of EPFL.