When most people hear the word 'drone', they think of war and spying. When most people hear the acronym 'UAV' (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) they think of robotics and technology. Yet these terms aren't inseparable, they are interchangeable; drones are UAVs, and UAVs are drones. While it is true we are generally more familiar with the 'war drones', that maybe all about to change. Take another term, 'multirotor'. Until recently most people wouldn't have had a clue what it meant. Now thanks to the media (or largely Amazon and their Air Prime proposal) a lot more people know it means a flying craft, a little bit like a helicopter but only with more rotors. In the future we are going to hear a lot more about these flying machines, and probably even have direct control or contact with them. Entrepreneurs and investors are betting on a future full of flying robots that can be programmed to do anything from surveying crops or floodplains to delivering pizzas. What's driving this revolution? Well, the technology used to be prohibitively expensive, only affordable by governments and hence our familiarity with the 'war drones'. It's now affordable and accessible to most, while all the more improving rapidly. This technological revolution is pathing the way for some exciting new drone related prospects and innovations, some of which I have listed below.
Matternet's drone related solution for third-world countries: Often, consumer technologies start by serving Western markets before trickling down to attain widespread utility - think computers, mobile phones, cars, and the like. Unlike "Amazon Prime Air", Matternet says its approach is to introduce drone delivery technology to the “people who need it the most" - the developing world. Check out the video below to learn more about their vision.
Pars life-saving flying robot: Pars is a 21st century lifeguard. It's a GPS-guided aerial robot that is capable of dropping life rings near drowning victims. The Iran-based company recently put together a working prototype to test its capabilities. Based on these initial tests, it's possible that this flying lifeguard could be out there saving lives sooner than you might think. The Pars has a distinct advantage over its flesh and blood counterparts since it can bypass treacherous waters with ease. When conducting a trial rescue mission, the drone was able to reach a target 75m away and drop its payload in about 22 seconds, while a human lifeguard took 91 seconds to swim to the same location. You can check out the video below to see the Pars robot racing against a human lifeguard.
E-volo's VC200 Volocopter: This one has to be our favourite! E-volo's electric two-passenger Volocopter has the potential to revolutionise aviation as we know it. It’s certainty not like an airplane but it’s not a helicopter. In fact, it cannot currently be classified in any known category. The overall design resembles a quadcopter – or, more aptly with its 18 separate rotors, an octodecacopter. Through the use of its many propellers, the Volocopter can take off and land vertically like a helicopter. But unlike a helicopter that’s reliant on a single rotor blade set, the Volvocopter boasts redundancy in the form of multiple rotors and backup systems. Furthermore if all else is lost, it’s fitted with a parachute - a distinct advantage over helicopters, which can’t be fitted with such rescue systems. E-volo recently celebrated the maiden launch of its Volocopter, touting the vehicle's safety and simplicity after an indoor flight inside the dm-arena in Karlsruhe, Germany on November 17. Check out the videos below, featuring the prototype and the maiden launch.
Greenland360 2014 Expedition: Climate research and remote sensing go hand in hand; at a global scale the Earth is simply too large and in places dangerous to be explored directly by individuals. For these reasons alone satellites have contributed hugely to what we know about climate change today. However, whilst they are fantastic at providing us with an overall picture, on the ground research is still invaluable. Greenland360 plan on using drones as a way to pioneer new methods of climate change research and communication. On their expedition to Greenland, they plan to use a quadcopter to film and photograph previously unexplored areas, which have been deemed too dangerous for people to access directly. It is these areas that could hold the most valuable information about the dynamics of the climate change. Greenland360 see value in the footage collected for scientific research, but also as an educational tool to engage society about the changing landscape of Greenland and its implications for world as a whole. Flying Tech have been in discussion with the Greenland360 team about their expedition and we look forward to following their progress - good luck!
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