Drones Rearrange This Canopy Prototype So You're Always in the Shade

iStock
iStock

When they're not rebuilding the environment or exploring Mars, the drones of the future may help us avoid some of life's minor inconveniences. A group of masters students at the University of Stuttgart envisioned a fleet of drones that does just that for their thesis project: As New Atlas reports, the drones are part of a roaming canopy, responding to sunlight above and movement below to ensure you're always in the shade.

Without the drones, the prototype, dubbed Cyber Physical Macro Material, resembles a normal stationary structure. Tall black poles support panels that fit together magnetically, protecting whoever's beneath them from the sun's rays. But this design is only effective when the sun is in a certain part of the sky: As the day progresses, the canopy's shadow shifts, and people are forced to move with it if they want to stay out of the light.

But these panels don't stay in the same spot for long. They come equipped with special sensors that keep track of the orientation of the sun and a communications system that corresponds with autonomous drones nearby. If a panel is no longer keeping the ground beneath it shady, a drone will glide over, lift it up, and snap it into a different part of the canopy like a puzzle piece. Drones can also rearrange the panels in response to the size and location of the crowd beneath them, which means the same structure that shades a few pedestrians can also keep a larger party cool.

There are legal and logistical hurdles the project would need to overcome before becoming a system in a real-world, but the researchers behind it say that for now it's meant to get people thinking about the potential applications for drones. A press release from the university reads, "With its ability to continuously reconstruct during use, the system challenges pre-conceived ideas of robotic digital fabrication and sophisticated pre-fabrication for architecture."

You can see how the drone-powered canopy works in the video below.

Cyber Physical Macro Material as a UAV [re]Configurable Architectural System from ICD on Vimeo.

[h/t New Atlas]

Amazon's Under-the-Radar Coupon Page Features Deals on Home Goods, Electronics, and Groceries

Stock Catalog, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
Stock Catalog, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

Now that Prime Day is over, and with Black Friday and Cyber Monday still a few weeks away, online deals may seem harder to come by. And while it can be a hassle to scour the internet for promo codes, buy-one-get-one deals, and flash sales, Amazon actually has an extensive coupon page you might not know about that features deals to look through every day.

As pointed out by People, the coupon page breaks deals down by categories, like electronics, home & kitchen, and groceries (the coupons even work with SNAP benefits). Since most of the deals revolve around the essentials, it's easy to stock up on items like Cottonelle toilet paper, Tide Pods, Cascade dishwasher detergent, and a 50 pack of surgical masks whenever you're running low.

But the low prices don't just stop at necessities. If you’re looking for the best deal on headphones, all you have to do is go to the electronics coupon page and it will bring up a deal on these COWIN E7 PRO noise-canceling headphones, which are now $80, thanks to a $10 coupon you could have missed.

Alternatively, if you are looking for deals on specific brands, you can search for their coupons from the page. So if you've had your eye on the Homall S-Racer gaming chair, you’ll find there's currently a coupon that saves you 5 percent, thanks to a simple search.

To discover all the deals you have been missing out on, head over to the Amazon Coupons page.

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McBroken: This Website Saves You a Trip to McDonald's By Telling You If Their Ice Cream Machine Is Down

McDonald's ice cream remains an elusive treat.
McDonald's ice cream remains an elusive treat.
Mike Mozart, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Fast food is about indulgence, and there are few menu items that promote cravings more than the soft-serve ice cream cones and McFlurry treats at McDonald’s. These pseudo-dairy desserts have an ardent fan base despite the fact that the machines dispensing them are frequently out of service for maintenance or cleaning.

Now, a new website can inform customers when a McDonald’s ice cream machine may be down. It’s called McBroken, and The Verge reports it was created by 24-year-old software engineer Rashiq Zahid. The site maintains a map that displays in real time which restaurants are able to offer ice cream and which aren't.

How does Zahid gather this information? A program attempts to place a McSundae order at every McDonald’s location in the United States via their app. If it’s added to his cart, the location gets a green dot and is prepared to dispense ice cream. If not, a red dot indicates there will be no ice cream forthcoming.

McBroken also keeps a running tally of the percentage of all restaurants without a working machine. At last glance, it was at 10.93 percent.

According to The Verge, Zahid was inspired to create McBroken after failing to retrieve a McSundae while in Berlin, Germany, over the summer. His program, or bot, originally attempted to order a McSundae every minute, but the McDonald’s app declared the activity suspicious. Now, he has set it to attempt an order every 30 minutes. The system works, Zahid said, because he verified the results against locations he visited in Berlin in person.