Tiny palm-top UAV folds itself up like an origami quadcopter

Tiny quadcopters that fit in the palm of your hand have been around for a few years now, but very few of those drones can also fit in your pocket; what with their easily snapped rotor spars. However, a pair of researchers from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology recently unveiled a clever and unique mini-UAV design that keeps the rotors safely tucked away until it's ready to fly.

Designed by robotics researchers Stefano Mintchev and Dario Floreano, the teensy drone can snap its 0.3mm rotor arms out in a flash before lifting off. It's actually the spinning rotors themselves that generate the momentum to swing out the spars. They stay locked in place thanks to a set of magnets in each joint. "Compared to traditional multi-joint foldable structures, origami allows us to embed complex folding patterns in a lightweight design," Mintchev said in the video above. "A desired folding behavior can be easily encoded in the crease pattern of the origami."

The drones clearly aren't build to carry heavy loads but could eventually be developed into stealthy surveillance platforms. Its inventors are reportedly currently working on a means of automatically retracting its arms which would allow you to, as Florentino states, "carry many of these robots in your backpack, and go and use them wherever you need."