These DARPA-funded cardboard drones are designed to deliver supplies, then disappear

cardboard drone oneway mission apsara02
What is it with the tech world and its sudden obsession with all things cardboard? First it was Google’s “Cardboard” VR setup, and now cutting-edge R&D lab Otherlab has created a cardboard drone that will surely go down in history as the world’s most advanced paper airplane.

ICARUS (that’s Inbound Controlled Air-Releasable Unrecoverable Systems), as it’s called, is a disposable drone that’s purposely designed to fly out on missions that there’s no coming back from.

As the “A” in its acronym suggests, ICARUS is designed to be released in mid-air by a larger aircraft. The goal is then to deliver supplies to their destination, where the drone body will then safely biodegrade. It’s able to do this because the UAV flies like a glider, with no built-in motor. Its only (presumably non-compostable) electronic components are a mini computer and sensors, which control where it travels and ultimately lands.

“There are two use cases that make the most sense: delivering humanitarian payloads to remote areas lacking suitable road infrastructure, or in cases where it’s worth minimizing human exposure, transporting blood, vaccines, and other medical supplies,” Otherlab engineer Star Simpson told Digital Trends. “Alternately, [these vehicles] may also enable the delivery of other equipment, such as batteries, to specific locations. We enable distributed delivery with precise landings, solving the ‘last leg’ problem for battlefield or low-infrastructure locations, and also reduce supply chain vulnerability in those cases.”

The project is the realization of a piece of DARPA research, from whom the funding for the work came. The biodegradable part of the project isn’t just about sustainability, either. It builds on an earlier DARPA project called Vanishing Programmable Resources (VAPR), intended to create self-destructing electronic devices able to stop high-tech military equipment falling into enemy hands.

That’s not to say it won’t one day be available to the likes of you or I in some form, however. “We are looking for commercial partnerships to bring this technology to the market,” Simpson said.

Gaming

Has it really been 17 years? The past, present, and future of the Xbox

From DirectX Box to 720, it's been a long, strange trip for Microsoft's Xbox gaming console. Here is what happened, from its odd beginnings to the rumored Scarlett console with streaming.
Emerging Tech

Alphabet’s Wing drones now have FAA approval to deliver packages in the U.S.

Alphabet Wing has become the first company to receive Air Carrier Certification from the FAA. This means that it can begin commercial deliveries from local businesses to homes in the U.S.
Movies & TV

The best movies on Netflix in March, from Buster Scruggs to Roma

Save yourself from hours wasted scrolling through Netflix's massive library by checking out our picks for the streamer's best movies available right now, whether you're into explosive action, witty humor, or anything else.
Cars

From rugged wagons to hot sports cars, the 2019 NY Auto Show brought it all

From city cars to supercars, anything goes at the New York Auto Show. Automakers from all over the globe traveled to the 2019 show to unveil their newest concept cars and production models.
Emerging Tech

Gravitational forces at heart of Milky Way shaped this star cluster like a comet

Hubble has captured the stunning Messier 62 cluster. The cluster is warped, with a long tail which stretches out to form a shape like a comet. It is thought this distortion is due to Messier 62's proximity to the center of the galaxy.
Emerging Tech

The grid of the future will be powered by … giant subterranean bagpipes?

In order to transition to a more renewable-focused energy system, we need to scale up our grid storage capacity --- and our existing methods aren't going to cut it. Could compressed air be the key?
Emerging Tech

Burgers are just the beginning: Embracing the future of lab-grown everything

You’ve almost certainly heard of the 'farm to fork' movement, but what about 'lab to table'? Welcome to the fast-evolving world of lab-grown meat. Is this the future of food as we know it?
Emerging Tech

Troubleshooting Earth

It’s no secret that humans are killing the planet. Some say it’s actually so bad that we’re hurtling toward a sixth major extinction event -- one which we ourselves are causing. But can technology help us undo the damage we’ve…
Emerging Tech

Inside the Ocean Cleanup’s ambitious plan to rid the ocean of plastic waste

In 2013, Boyan Slat crowdfunded $2.2 million to fund the Ocean Cleanup, a nonprofit organization that builds big, floating trash collectors and sets them out to sea, where they’re designed to autonomously gobble up garbage.
Emerging Tech

Climeworks wants to clean the atmosphere with a fleet of truck-sized vacuums

Using machines that resemble jet engines, Climeworks wants to fight climate change by extracting CO2 from thin air. The gas can then be sold to carbonated drink and agriculture companies, or sequestered underground.
Emerging Tech

How 3D printing has changed the world of prosthetic limbs forever

When he was 13 years old, Christophe Debard had his leg amputated. Here in 2019, Debard's Print My Leg startup helps others to create 3D-printed prostheses. Welcome to a growing revolution!
Emerging Tech

Geoengineering is risky and unproven, but soon it might be necessary

Geoengineering is a field dedicated to purposely changing the world's climate using technology. Call it 'playing god' if you must; here's why its proponents believe it absolutely must happen.
Digital Trends Live

Digital Trends Live: Earth Day, indoor container farming, robot submarines

Today on Digital Trends Live, we discuss how technology intersects with Earth Day, a new Tim Cook biography, indoor container farming, robot spy submarines, A.I. death metal, and more.
Gaming

Google’s Stadia is the future of gaming, and that’s bad news for our planet

Google’s upcoming Stadia cloud gaming service, and its competitors, are ready to change the way gamers play, but in doing so they may kick off a new wave of data center growth – with unfortunate consequences for the environment.