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A team at the University of Tokyo has created a flying dragon drone

What a time to be alive.

Dragon drone
Image: IEEE Spectrum

Researchers in Japan have created a robotic dragon drone that can fly and change shape in midair to fit through tight spaces.

First shown on electronics website IEEE Spectrum, the innovative drone was created by a team at the JSK Lab at the University of Tokyo.

We’ve seen other transforming drones before, and ones that transform before flying, like the well-known Mavic range — but this is the first time I’ve seen a drone that can change its physical shape so drastically while still in the air.

Named DRAGON, or “Dual-rotor embedded multilink Robot with the Ability of multi-deGree-of-freedom aerial transformatiON,” the modular drone can change shape in flight, as shown in the below video.

The report from IEEE Spectrum says that the DRAGON drone is able to “autonomously decide” what shape to change into to pass through a hole.

Researcher Fan Shi told the publication that Dragon is a “breakthrough in hardware design which, in a beautiful way, connects a manipulation arm with a ducted fan-driven aerial robot.”

Currently, the drone is limited by battery life, only managing to stay airborne for up to three minutes at a time, but this may be improved as development goes on. It’s also able to support up to 12 linked modules, giving it a huge range of agility and shape-shifting.

We will [next] move forward to design a ‘multi-legged’ model with our basic link module. Then the robot can not only fly, but also walk on the ground. This can benefit us in terms of the energy efficiency. Such autonomous decision about locomotion according to the environment is very interesting research. Our ultimate dream is to achieve the flying humanoid, like an unmanned Iron Man.

Being a huge Transformers fan and drone enthusiast, I love this. I can only wonder what it will be able to do if disconnecting/recombining is added.

What do you think of the dragon drone? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

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Maker, meme-r, and unabashed geek with nearly half a decade of blogging experience. If it runs on electricity (or even if it doesn't), Joe probably has one around his office somewhere. His hobbies include photography, animation, and hoarding Reddit gold.

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