People are now quite used to the sight of multicopter drones, with their symmetrical bodies and evenly-spaced sets of propellers. For most applications, that setup works great. However, what happens when the situation calls for an asymmetrical design? How do you design such a copter, in order that the finished aircraft will actually be able to fly? Well, there's now a software system that will guide you through it.
Designed by a team at MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), the program automatically alters the structure of the drone in order to accommodate user-specified factors such as unusually-shaped payloads, unobstructed camera views, cost-effectiveness, or prolonged flight times.
The system guarantees that when built, drones based on its designs will all be able to take off, hover and land. In order to do so, however, some interesting allowances have to be made.
For example, the CSAIL team used the technology to create a drone with a main body that's the shape of a rabbit. In order to keep the torque and thrust of its unevenly-spaced propellers balanced, they're not all the same size, nor are they located at the same height.
As a result, though, the oddball "bunnycopter" can be flown just like an off-the-shelf quadcopter.
"This system opens up new possibilities for how drones look and function," says project leader Prof. Wojciech Matusik. "It's no longer a one-size-fits-all approach for people who want to make and use drones for particular purposes."
Some of the group's creations can be seen in flight, in the following video.