Design Outside the Box

Too often we get stuck thinking design is something creative people do on a computer screen. But design is much more than that. From the chair you’re sitting in to the probably horrible fluorescent lighting above your head, everything has been touched by the hand of a designer. To help us see design from a broader perspective, let’s leave the web for a few moments and look at another unique challenge.

The Challenge: Make a flying robot that can recover easily from a crash and keep flying.

Team 1: EPFL’s Laboratory of Intelligent Systems

When looking at nature, we noticed that insects and birds also collide with windows and walls, but can usually survive the crash, recover and keep flying.

Team 2: Japanese Ministry of Defense

This team stepped back and realized the biggest challenge to crash recovery is that typical flying machines have to be at a specific angle for take-off and landing. Team 1 operates within this constraint by using spring-loaded legs to put the robot at the required angle after a crash. But the Japanese team has overcome that constraint by making the body of the robot round and allowing the exoskeleton to rotate around the flying parts inside. With a round body, every angle is the right angle.

And a bonus for Team 2 :

The cost of parts for the machine is approximately US$1400, and the lead engineer Fumiyuki Sato explained that the parts were purchased off the shelf.

Because time and money are always constraints.

Fox Tip: The simple answer is often the better one.

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