Japanese electronics maker creates Origami-style drone

Japan has an increasingly contentious relationship with drone technology, so Lapis Semiconductor created a beautiful Origami-style UAV to help win over the public.

Adam Bolton
Adam Bolton is a contributor for CNET based in Japan. He is, among things, a volunteer, a gamer, a technophile and a beard grower. He can be found haunting many of Tokyo's hotspots and cafes.
Adam Bolton
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Drones have something of a bad reputation in Japan, especially after a man landed a UAV carrying radioactive sand atop the prime minster's home in April. However, Japanese electronics manufacturer RHOM Semiconductor has found a way to make drone technology more appealing in the country.

At this year's Combined Exhibition of Advanced Technologies trade show in Tokyo, LAPIS Semiconductor, a subsidiary of ROHM, unveiled the Orizuru -- a paper crane able to take flight, thanks to a little Japanese ingenuity.

The technology that powers the beautiful gadget is Lazurite Fly, a microcomputer designed by LAPIS that is said to be 90 percent more energy efficient than its competitors, such as Arduino, with the size of the computer being comparable to that of an SD card.

The word "drone" has earned a negative connotation as of late in Japan, where there have been issues with the use of the technology. In July, it was made illegal for civilians to fly UAV's around the political centre or the Imperial Palace, following an April incident that saw a man protest Japan's nuclear energy policy by flying a drone carrying radioactive sand and landing it on Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's roof. The Orizuru was partially designed to offer a more pleasant, natural way to use and explore the technology.

The paper crane, operated by remote control, was also developed by RHOM and miniature aircraft company Tyoukogata Hikoutai Lab with the hopes of creating technology to replicate the realistic movement of a bird in flight. The paper crane was a natural and iconic choice for Japan.

Utilising a 3D-printed skeleton made from nylon filament to give Orizuru its shape, with layers of paper to give it form, the entirety of the Lazurite Fly comes in at only 31 grams (1oz), with batteries and sensors included and a body length of 70cm (27.5 inches).

Initial design took three months of work and refining in order to make it what it is today. ROHM hopes to collaborate with venture companies and startups, with the Lazurite Fly being applied to various products.

At some point in the future, the design itself will be disclosed to the public so that aircraft and origami enthusiasts alike can create this marvel of engineering themselves.