SkyProwler combines a quadcopter and a fixed-wing airplane in one device
Arizona-based start-up Krossblade is developing a five-passenger "flying car"-type vehicle known as the SkyCruiser. Among other things, plans call for it to take off and land like a quadcopter, while transitioning to faster, more efficient fixed-wing flight while en route. Will you ever be able to buy one? Well, that's hard to say, but if Krossblade's current Kickstarter campaign is a success, you will soon be able to buy a functioning miniature prototype known as the SkyProwler.
Like a quadcopter, the SkyProwler has four horizontal propellers that allow it to perform vertical take-offs and landings, and to hover in mid-air. Whereas a copter has to tilt its nose down in order to move forward, however, the SkyProwler uses an additional two vertical props in the rear to push itself forward. This allows it to minimize its frontal area while moving through the air.
If users want to make it really sleek and fast, though, they can instruct the aircraft to retract its landing gear and pull its four copter props into the sides of its body, switchblade-style. It's then being powered solely by the two rear props, maintaining lift using its wings. This allows it to cover greater distances using less battery power, and to keep up with fast-moving subjects – its top speed in this configuration is 83 mph (134 km/h).
On the other hand, if users know that they're only going to use it for slow-speed flight and hovering, they can lighten it up by temporarily pulling off the wings and tail. Flight time ranges from 24 minutes in quadcopter configuration to 40 minutes when flying fixed-wing.
The drone also features interchangeable nose cones, one of which allows it to carry a third-party camera. Another cone, however, contains Krossblade's own gimbal-mounted 4K/30fps EyeHD camera (seen above), which is said to be much more aerodynamic than something like a GoPro. Additionally, because it's mounted right on the nose, the camera can actually be aimed upwards – something that isn't possible on a quadcopter.
The SkyProwler is controlled using a radio remote control unit, that comes with an optional live-streaming video screen. If users wish, however, they can remove the GPS module from that unit and carry it with them in a radio arm band, the aircraft then automatically following them by homing in on that module. In that mode (or when using the full remote control, for that matter), they can relay simple commands such as "take off" and "land" via voice prompts.
Additionally, using an accompanying app, users can plot a flight path on a map, which the aircraft will subsequently follow on its own.
If you're interested in a complete ready-to-fly package, be prepared to pledge US$899 – this includes a 1080p/30fps version of the camera. A model with the 4K camera will set you back $1,399. Shipping is scheduled for July, assuming all goes according to plans.
You can see the SkyProwler in action, in the video below. For examples of military-grade drones that utilize a similar design (except without retractable props), check out the Quadrotor UAV and the Arcturus.