Drones

Single-rotored Monospinner keeps drone flight simple

Single-rotored Monospinner kee...
Having previously demonstrated that quadcopters can remain in flight even when losing one, two or three of their propellors, the Monospinner seemed a logical next step for the research team
Having previously demonstrated that quadcopters can remain in flight even when losing one, two or three of their propellors, the Monospinner seemed a logical next step for the research team
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Having previously demonstrated that quadcopters can remain in flight even when losing one, two or three of their propellors, the Monospinner seemed a logical next step for the research team
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Having previously demonstrated that quadcopters can remain in flight even when losing one, two or three of their propellors, the Monospinner seemed a logical next step for the research team
The engine driving the propellor at the top is the drone's only moving part
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The engine driving the propellor at the top is the drone's only moving part

Whether they look like a thermos or a bracelet, today's drones come in all shapes and sizes, but they all involve a bunch of moving parts to keep them balanced in the air. Swiss researchers have now fashioned a drone that remains airborne through a single propellor, resulting in what they describe as the mechanically simplest controllable flying machine in existence.

Researchers at ETH Zurich's Flying Machine Arena spend their days picking apart drone design and what tasks they might be able to perform. Part of this involves investigating how swarms of small drones can collaborate to build things, work which culminated in a walkable rope bridge built entirely by flying robots last year.

The Monospinner is their latest creation and the drone doesn't seem to serve much of a practical purpose, unless you're looking to film a very fast merry-go-round or deliver whipped cream. Where conventional multicopters hover in place through a number of rotors that create an upward thrust to cancel out their weight, the Monospinner relies on just one.

The engine driving the propellor at the top is the drone's only moving part. By having the vehicle rotate about four times each second at a constant angular velocity with a certain propellor force, the Monospinner is able hold its position in the air and stop from flipping over.

The engine driving the propellor at the top is the drone's only moving part
The engine driving the propellor at the top is the drone's only moving part

To move the drone in the air, the team uses the average thrust force of the propellor and deviations from this average thrust as control inputs. This allows it to determine its position, even after it has been tossed into the air like a frisbee (see the video below).

Having previously demonstrated that quadcopters can remain in the air even when losing one, two or three of their propellors, the Monospinner almost seemed like a logical step for the research team. It says it is now seeking to take things one step further and build a flying machine with no moving parts at all.

A video demonstrating the Monospinner can be seen below, while a paper detailing the research can be found here (PDF).

Source: ETH Zurich Flying Machine Arena via RoboHub

The Monospinner: a controllable flying vehicle with a single moving part

8 comments
8 comments
Bob Humbly
The no moving parts flying machine comment gets to me.
Donald Vitez
Imagine doing FPV with this thing! I am getting nauseous just watching it.
zevulon
this design is based on a biomimetic academic research upon the flight dynamics of a spinning oak seed. i remember watching the prototype they constructed for research, far smaller than this.
it occurs to me that the research involved in making a full size prototype may actually one day be incorporated into the control and sensor systems of actual quadcopters to allow them 1) to maneuver in very unexpected ways to avoid both nets, bullets/explosions 2) the same as 1 but for avoiding obstacles such as trees branches and last minute things like birds 3) to maintain functionality after loss of a rotor 4)to crash land properly 5) to take off and land on both uneven surfaces as well as mounted surfaces that are not either vertical like the ground, or not ordinary but exotic, either moving or simply obstructed.
PlanetPapi
It is a great variation in drone design. I still don't know what practical problem it is trying to solve but hope researchers do.
zevulon
.......add on comment. this control algorithm may even be useful in helping quadcopters pull off bizzarre maneuvers meant to help 'throw' or 'launch' payloads from the quadcopter, such as a ball payload attached from a cargo line underneath the quadcopter, or a mini deployeable sensor attached directly upon the quadcopter.
zevulon
it occurs to me as well that if they design the spining BODY/frame of the monospinner as a wing, then the wing itself will also generate lift as it spins making this thing even more efficient at flight. it coudl quite possibly be the most efficient hovering machine ever built.
Jay Finke
All I know is when.. is there one I can ride in, just imagine the views. wee-e-e-e
LucasAdrianAinscough
Now what they have made there is essentially a shit helicopter...