Paper Plane-Making Robot Could Benefit Aircraft Design

The robot, which made more than 500 paper airplanes, could be used to automate real-life aircraft development

Scarlett Evans, Assistant Editor, IoT World Today

April 3, 2023

2 Min Read

A newly designed robotic arm can design, create and test paper airplanes. 

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Developed by a team of engineers at the Computational Robot Design & Fabrication Lab (CRATE Lab) in Switzerland, the design includes a software application to make the initial designs for the paper airplane. Once the design is complete, the app would then send it to the robotic arm to cut it out from a sheet of paper and launch it to test its efficacy.

A mounted camera was used by the team to track each airplane’s flights and determine which design performed best.

“Although often regarded as a childhood toy, the design of paper airplanes is subtly complex,” the team wrote. “The design space and mapping … is highly nonlinear and probabilistic … This makes optimization and understanding of their behavior challenging for humans. 

“By understanding the behavior of paper airplanes and predicting flight behavior, there is a potential to improve the design of aerial vehicles that operate at low Reynolds numbers. By developing a robotic system that can fabricate, test, analyze, and model the flight behavior in an unsupervised fashion, a wide design space can be reliably characterized.”

After their robot had created and flown more than 500 planes (made from more than 50 designs), the team identified a pattern, with the designs falling into roughly three movements: nose dive, glide and recovery glide.

The team suggested that the method of automating test flights could be useful in real-world aircraft design.

“Our approach serves as an exploration in using a robotic designer for understanding and exploiting a complex physical system,” the team wrote. “In the future, this approach could be extended to increasingly complex design spaces or other robotic setups, such as the design of micro-air vehicles to optimize its wing shape to maximize flight distances.”

About the Author(s)

Scarlett Evans

Assistant Editor, IoT World Today

Scarlett Evans is the assistant editor for IoT World Today, with a particular focus on robotics and smart city technologies. Scarlett has previous experience in minerals and resources with Mine Australia, Mine Technology and Power Technology. She joined Informa in April 2022.

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