A launch event in Sydney, Australia, this week was the latest stop on Sir James Dyson’s world tour introducing his company’s new line of Airblade hand dryers. While the dryers and the new digital motor that powers them were the main focus, the billionaire British industrial designer also confirmed that his company is still working to perfect an autonomous vacuum cleaner.

There’s no hiding Dyson’s pride in his company’s new digital motor. And why not? Developed at a cost of US$40.9 million over a period of 10 years, the new 1,600-watt motor spins at an impressive 110,000 rpm. “No one else makes a motor that goes any faster than about 35,000 rpm,” Dyson says, pointing out that even a Formula 1 engine runs at only 19,000 rpm.

As well as the three new Airblade hand dryers, the mini motor can also be found in the company’s Digital Slim DC44 vacuum cleaner and will be showing up in other Dyson products in the future.

Could one such product be an autonomous vacuum cleaner? The reduced size of the motor, with its 85 mm (3.4 inch) diameter and improved efficiency would certainly make it an ideal candidate. But size, efficiency and suction are just some of numerous problems that need to be overcome – intelligent autonomous navigation being another major one.

Dyson says the company has been working on such a device for 15 years and Gizmag actually did a story on the imminent release of a robotic vacuum called the DC06 back in 2004. If the company had followed through with a launch it would have had bragging rights as the first to bring a robotic vacuum to market. But despite claiming the DC06 is more advanced than other robotic vacuums already available, the decision was made to hold off until the design was perfected.

“When we can do it properly, which of course we think we can, we’ll launch one,” says Dyson.

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