Much as we like to fantasise about them, dragons sadly don’t exist in the real world. Westeros can boast about its dragons all it wants, but researchers at the University of Tokyo’s JSK Lab have developed a robot called, well, DRAGON that’s pretty cool, too.
The flying robot is made of several small drones and, one-upping fantasy dragons, it can shape-shift while flying (video above). Depending to the space it needs to navigate, it can autonomously take the shape of a snake, a square, a straight line, a zigzag line, and so on, as you can see in the videos above and below.
According to The Verge, the robot was inspired by traditional dragon kites, where the tail is made up of a series of smaller, interlinked kites. That was probably where it got the name DRAGON, which is an acronym for a real mouthful: “Dual-rotor embedded multilink Robot with the Ability of multi-deGree-of-freedom aerial transformatiON”.
Right now, the purpose of building DRAGON is to navigate small spaces. The drone in the videos is made up of only four modules. However, DRAGON is capable of supporting up to 12 modules, which would give it much more agility and shape-shifting prowess.
In the future, the researchers at JSK hope to see the robot work as a “flying arm” that can form new shapes, move and manipulate objects, or even pick things up. They also plan on designing a “multi-legged” version that can not only fly but also walk on the ground.