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In Prison Break Michael made these origami paper Swans and he dropped one down a sewer/drainage hole in the center of the Fox river state Penitentiary field, where all the inmates hang out in their free time.

If I remember correctly, shortly after this episode, John Abruzzi had a call from someone that had a message that said they knew of Fibonacci's location and in that message included an origami Swan that Michael had previously sent to John's accomplice. I presumed the origami Swan shown previously was a lead up to this scene, so the viewers knew Michael was the one behind sending the origami and knew of Fibonacci's location and that John Abruzzi would team up with Michael.

However, what was Michael trying to do or work out by dropping the original origami bird down the drainage hole there?

This origami scene was included in the show's intro: enter image description here

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    It's been a while since I've seen it, but iirc it was to find out where the sewer went. – kuhl May 18 '15 at 2:13
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Changing my comment into an answer...

Michael uses the Origami swan to figure out where the drain pipe flows so that he can use it in the escape. IIRC, later on in the season he sees the Swan out in the yard. The reason he uses a swan rather than a random piece of paper is to distinguish it from the trash that would be caught up in the sewer.

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    Although I agree with this answer and upvoted, wouldn't he already know this when getting the tattoos? – hd. May 18 '15 at 13:15
  • @hd. That's a good question. I can't remember if they ever address that. Maybe the Swan was to confirm that his tattoos were correct? – kuhl May 18 '15 at 14:01
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Although I agree with the answer already given, I want to expand on it a tad - namely the question around the tattoo.

In the episode about the CUTE poison (the chemicals mixed up in the toothpaste) where Michael squeezes the mixture into the grate in the infirmary, aiming to corrode the pipes to open access from the cells through to the infirmary. The origami is used to establish if the pipes have in-fact corroded - if he can drop one through the grate in the infirmary and it ends up back in the cell block area (or the surrounding grounds) he knows that the mixture has done its job.

Michaels earlier research showed that the pipes were the "Route 66", but he knew he had to remove a few roadblocks first.

Michael: Think of this place like it is a map of the U.S. Our cell over there, that's New York City. The infirmary, our exit, is California. The pipes beneath our feet that connect the two...

Sucre: Route 66.

Michael: Route 66. Our ticket out of here.

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Actually in episode 12 I believe Michael said that Lincoln would put one by Michael's bed at night to let him know he was looking out for him

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    Yes he did but this incident has nothing to do with the OP's question. – user30432 Feb 5 '16 at 9:07

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