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A team of researchers at UC Berkeley’s High-Performance Robotics Laboratory have been at work developing a novel drone capable of folding and retracting mid-flight in order to overcome obstacles and fit into tight spaces.

The prototype drone flies like any other quadcopter drone. However, in contrast to traditional quadcopter drones, UC Berkeley’s drone can fold itself, effectively shrinking its size by half. The drone folds itself thanks to a spring hinge system. Sprung hinges are used to connect each of the drone’s propellers to the central body. When the drone generates lower thrust the arms fold automatically, shrinking the drone. Once the drone re-generates its thrust, the arms retract and the drone returns to the traditional quadcopter shape. reports that this is not the first instance of a drone compressing its shape during flight. However, this drone is that first drone to be able to do without the help of additional external hardware.

Such technology can be incredibly useful for inspections and examinations of large machines and factories. The foldable drone would be able to squeeze into tight spaces that were previously inaccessible for traditional drones. 

Although the UC Berkeley’s drone is still a prototype, it still raises speculations towards the vast possibility of drone applications in the near future.