Everyone loves drones. They are fun to fly, capture awesome video footage, and make an excellent hobby for anyone with an interest in flight or technology. A big downside of the devices, though, is short battery life. Traditional drones can only fly for around 15 to 20 minutes before needing to land for a recharge.
Of course, this limitation is a large part of the reason why drones aren’t routinely doing things like delivering packages. Now, a startup called Flybotix has developed a UFO-style design that lets its drone fly twice as long.
The quadcopter has been the primary drone design in recent years. Flybotix’s new project is notably different. The Swiss startup’s drone looks a lot like a flying hockey puck. Since that comparison may not sound as cool, the team likens it to a UFO or flying saucer.
The device combines the traditional dual-blade aerodynamics of a helicopter with the stability and miniaturization of a drone. Two blades (rather than four) turn in opposite directions. This unique feature helps decrease battery consumption and also cuts back on noise.
Flybotix’s drone measures just 12 inches in diameter and is a perfect circle. The shape is designed to reduce drag no matter what direction the drone flies in.
However, a dual-blade craft traditionally has a big drawback: a lack of stability. The design makes them very hard to fly. As such, it often renders that style of drone unusable. To counter this problem, Flybotix came up with a unique alternative.
Hidden within the drone’s hardware is a digital control system that helps stabilize the drone’s two rotors by way of a simple algorithm. In real-time, it calculates how to offset the rotation of the blades and how much to tilt each one to maintain a smooth flight. When the pilot changes from flying a straight line to maneuvering through obstacles, the algorithm keeps up and makes changes accordingly.
This technology allows Flybotix’s drone to leverage the best of both worlds. It flies just as smoothly as any quadcopter drone on the market. Plus, it’s also poised to outlast almost any of them. Even better, the device can be operated with conventional joystick controls. This means the pilot doesn’t need to acclimate to a new system.
Furthermore, the drone’s small size, shape, and a foam coating around its cowl make it perfect for inspecting dangerous areas. While the team lauds it as an ideal device for inspecting oil rigs and natural gas plants, it can also be used elsewhere.
Lead researcher Samir Bouabdallah says, “This technology can also be used in other applications like public safety, law enforcement, and [any] applications where miniaturization of drones is necessary.”
If field tests are as successful as promised, this drone style could quickly become the new normal. Overall, by pairing unconventional design with a nifty algorithm, the Flybotix team has solved the biggest issue plaguing drones. Plus, its sleek, simple shape shows that sparkling new features aren’t always the answer.