Drones

Crash-proof UAV takes out US$1 million Drones For Good Competition

How drones can be prevented from crashing into things, or at least in a way that doesn't put and end to their flight, is a legitimate problem for this burgeoning technology
How drones can be prevented from crashing into things, or at least in a way that doesn't put and end to their flight, is a legitimate problem for this burgeoning technology
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How drones can be prevented from crashing into things, or at least in a way that doesn't put and end to their flight, is a legitimate problem for this burgeoning technology
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How drones can be prevented from crashing into things, or at least in a way that doesn't put and end to their flight, is a legitimate problem for this burgeoning technology
As the drone crashes into walls, beams and ceilings, the outer frame takes the impact and the drone remains stable
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As the drone crashes into walls, beams and ceilings, the outer frame takes the impact and the drone remains stable

Some are calling it the World Cup for Drones, while the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has simply labeled it the Drones For Good award. Whichever way you spin it, offering up US$1 million in prize money is sure to bring out great ideas from all corners of the globe. The international competition seeks to emphasize the positive capabilities of drones and on Saturday, a team of Swiss technologists took out first prize with a vehicle that flies protected by a spinning cage, helping it to better travel through confined spaces.

Last month we did a roundup of the finalists for the Drones For Good Award, so we won't go over them in great detail here. But the Flyability team from Switzerland beat out some truly big-picture ideas to claim first prize. These include drones that detect landmines, drones that shoot seedpods into the ground to help replantation efforts and drone delivery nets that could form the mailboxes of the future.

We covered the Gimball drone when it first emerged back in 2013, and at first glance the concept is not as eye-catching as those above. It's not promised to save lives, conserve protected rainforests or disrupt the package delivery game, but indirectly, it may prove to have a far greater impact across a number of industries.

The team says its aim in developing Gimball was to mimic the ability of insects to crash into obstacles and continue in flight. To this end, the drone is housed inside a carbon fiber cage, which sits inside another rotating, spherical frame. As the drone crashes into walls, beams and ceilings, the outer frame takes the impact and the inner remains stable, allowing it to continue on its way.

The big advantage is that there is no need for obstacle avoidance sensors and software. Gimball can instead have collisions and use the obstacles to guide it in its path. The team posits that the drone will first find value in search and rescue missions, where drones are sent into disaster zones, such as a nuclear site or war-torn area, for example, to look for survivors.

But working out how drones can be prevented from crashing into things, or at least in a way that doesn't put a stop to their flight, is a legitimate problem for this burgeoning technology could see the Gimball approach pop up in all kinds of applications.

You can see the drone in action and hear from Flyability CEO Patrick Thévoz in the video below.

Source: The UAE Drones For Good Award

Flyability for Search and Rescue

7 comments
Milton
so awesome. This thing has a LOT of potential.
kid-jensen
EVERY drone I've seen screams out to me "why aren't the blades protected".... Seems so obvious to me (or any engineer) that I didn't bother mentioning it. Much like Apple products, I just assumed that all Drones came with a catalogue of overpriced accesories like protective cages, Higher-definition cameras etc, etc that never made it to the launch video. The gimbal arrangement seems to work well, but just a sperical PTFE cage would work 99% as well and would be significantly lighter, which is a major consideration in drone design.
Synchro
@Paulg Most bigger drones do not use prop guards because they can interfere with air flow and cause dangerous instability. They also add weight and bulk - for example a DJI Phantom will not fit in a typical backpack with guards on. If you're outside and away from people, you really don't need guards, but they can make crashing into trees in particular a bit more survivable (I know, sigh). They also keep the props from hitting the ground if you tip over on landing, which is a common problem. They are also dirt-cheap on eBay. You'll find lots of video on the subject on youtube.
Buellrider
Birds of prey would be protected when they attack this protected drone. Like it alot.
artmez
This is an "old" idea, but maybe with some refinements. Back in 2011, the Japanese Ministry of Defense demonstrated a nearly identical drone. See in on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2RK_rl6oXfo
Bob Flint
Looks like it would fly fine against relatively smooth surfaces, bit seeing it less than a second in a dense forest, it would get hopelessly snagged. As it would in a disaster area full of loose cables, debris, etc. Also video is greatly impaired with the ribbing even a mesh would have problems, and of course it would drown in liquids, or burn in flames.
artmez
Add this to the list of similar products. This time its a kid's toy... http://www.airhogs.com/site/product/rollercopter
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