Research area

As a doctoral researcher, I study structurally flexible multi-rotor drones and their properties. I design and simulate thin, lightweight composite structures that show wide and nonlinear shape changes and make up the drones' frames. I draw inspiration from flying animals and other biological organisms to find evolutionary solutions to stabilize such highly dynamic, continuously deforming flying bodies.

Through my research, I demonstrate that soft multicopters can still fly and complete missions while also highlighting the unique properties of these drones, uncovered by their inherent flexibility. Soft quadrotors are highly maneuverable and can assume highly diverse morphologies with low reconfiguration energy expenditure. They can also passively squeeze to traverse narrow openings dynamically and with high resilience.

My research challenges the conventional approach to confined environment exploration using aerial robots contributing to soft aerial robotics. In the future, my work will provide advanced solutions for search and rescue scenarios, ecological measurements in dense forest canopies, and complex infrastructure monitoring and maintenance.

Curriculum Vitae

Luca Girardi, born in Padua, Italy, in 1996, joined the Environmental Robotics Laboratory at ETH Zurich as a doctoral student in 2021. In 2022 he was admitted to the doctoral candidacy with the research plan titled "Design Principles for Structurally Soft Multi-Rotor Drones." As part of the Environmental Robotics Laboratory, Luca has a second affiliation with the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow, and Landscaper Research, WSL, in Birmensdorf, ZH.

Luca earned his Bachelor of Science in mechanic and mechatronic engineering (with honors) from the University of Padua in 2018. He then obtained a Master of Science in bionics engineering and biorobotics (with honors) from the University of Pisa and Sant'Anna School of Advanced Studies in 2021. In 2022, he finally obtained a Master's of advanced studies (with honors) in industrial and information engineering at Sant'Anna School of Advanced Studies.

As an honors student at Sant'Anna School of Advanced Studies, Luca specialized in modeling thin, lightweight structures in the large-deformation regimes with applications in space structures and biorobotics. In 2019, Luca was a student research fellow at the Space Structures Laboratory at Caltech, where he worked on multistable and deployable, nonlinear-elastic, ribbon-based structures under the supervision of Professor S. Pellegrino. Throughout his studies and research experiences, on top of solid robotics foundations, Luca has gained expertise in using analytical and numerical tools in continuum and solid mechanics, with innovative applications in soft robotics.