Otherlab has launched a drone that can deliver essential medical supplies to remote areas and then be left to fade into the earth without any environmental impact at all.
It’s a cardboard drone, not unlike the paper aeroplane drone, but there aren’t any manmade parts that will cause problems as it’s bedding into the soil.
Apsara as it’s known (an acronym for Aerial Platform Supporting Autonomous Resupply Actions) has been built by robotics company Otherlab, with funding fro Darpa. Even its mechanical parts should decompose in the future, because Darpa is developing ephemeral electronics that won’t leave a footprint on the environment either.
Otherlab explained Apsara has been designed to deliver essential supplies to remote areas in a humanitarian crisis. They are laser cut, so economical to make and can be put together in less than an hour, just by folding and taping.
They can transport supplies weighing up to two pounds (900g) with a wingspan of three feet. Designed to be deployed in flocks of hundreds or thousands, they cruise to the ground like birds, ensuring energy isn’t wasted.
“It looks like a pizza box that’s been shaped into a wing,” says Star Simpson, an engineer at San Francisco robotics company Otherlab told Wired. But at the moment, its GPS unit and motors mounted on its wings won’t allow it to be fully eco-friendly. They need to be removed before it can be left to rot away.
However, Otherlab has big dreams for Apsara. The next step is to make it out of mycelium, which is actually mushroom matter so it’ll sink into the ground in days, rather than months like cardboard.