Rescue workers trying to reach a fallen climber in a 100-foot crevasse face perilous conditions. Elios, a rescue drone made by the Swiss flying-robotics company Flyability, tries to minimize these threats.
Roughly a 15-inch sphere, Elios draws inspiration from houseflies, which bounce off a surface and keep flying; it is equipped with a freely rotating carbon-fiber exoskeleton that spins on a separate axis from the drone avionics inside it. When Elios hits a wall, the cage continues spinning and absorbs the energy of the collision, while the propellers inside keep spinning and the HD camera and lighting system remain stabilized. It can navigate such extreme environments as collapsed buildings, chemical spill sites, and even glaciers—just about any “break in case of emergency” scenarios.
This article was originally published in the July/August 2016 issue of Popular Science.