PufferBot from the University of Colorado Boulder has a protective shield that prevents dangerous collisions.


  • Improved safety


  • Security
  • Surveillance

UN Sustainable Development Goals Addressed

  • Goal 9: Industry Innovation & Infrastructure

The Challenge

Although drones provide a convenient method of aerial surveillance and videography, they can be harmful when a collision occurs. The rotating blades that control the movement of drones can cause cuts and gashes due to the fast rotation speeds. Adding heavy armor around the blades increases costs and limits maneuverability.

Innovation Details

The aerial robot has a collapsible plastic shield that can be deployed at a moment’s notice. When it gets close to an obstacle, the shield deploys, lessening the effect of the impact on the robot and the external object. The shield is made of plastic hoops that can inflate from ~20 inches to 33 inches in diameter, creating a lightweight, flexible protection device.

Image: Bill Eichenlaub/NPS; Hooman Hedayati/University of Colorado, Boulder / Copyright © - All rights reserved

PufferBot. Photo: Bill Eichenlaub/NPS; Hooman Hedayati/University of Colorado, Boulder.

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Biological Model

Pufferfish inflate when threatened by a predator to protect themselves. The fish ingest water to enlarge their bodies, making them more dangerous looking. Their skin also contains embedded spines that become erect when inflated, further scaring off predators.