An advanced eight-rotor model dubbed the octocopter (see ‘Flight-al statistics’), has been put through its paces by researchers led by Andrew Riche of Rothamsted Research, an institute devoted to plant, soil and agricultural science that receives strategic funding from UK bioscience funders BBSRC.
Rothamsted is the site of the longest running field experiments in the world, where farm systems and inputs such as fertiliser, pesticides and crop growth have been running for more than a hundred years. In the 21st century, they want to see if drone surveillance can take much of the drudgery and footwork out of these large-scale experiments that span over 200 hectares of picturesque English countryside. As a demonstrator technology, the researchers are embarking on a rigorous programme of regularly recording experiments over five hectares (the size of seven football pitches) to see exactly what this airborne marvel is capable of.
“This year we have focused on monitoring crop height through the season and also crop maturity, says Riche. “Different wheat lines mature at different rates, and we regularly monitor this on the ground – this year we hope to have done it from the air.”
The story focuses on his project, carried out with his students, aimed at mapping marine habitats with a self constructed drone, made just for this purpose.
Have a look at this beautiful little bird called “Henri”:
“Weighing in at just under 5 pounds, “Henri” (named in honor of the king of Northern Haiti from the early nineteen century) has a tough, floatable KYDEX® frame equipped with a high-def GoPro camera, an GPS enabled-autopilot chip, and other navigation electronics tucked neatly inside an upside-down Tupperware container mounted on top that serves as a perfect waterproof housing.
Henri can be guided manually using remote control or via autonomous mode with a pre-programmed flight path.”
Check out the construction process of the Harvard Monolithic Bee (Mobee), it’s fascinating.
Unfortunately not really something you can build at home. Nor can you buy it at a local shop. Oh well…
“Such bee-sized flying robots have low material costs and could be made in large numbers, and their small size lets them maneuver in confined spaces, Fuller said. They could have a lot of applications in remote sensing and in search and rescue operations, and could also act as “robobees” in assisted agriculture, pollinating flowers and fighting pests, Fuller said.
The researchers are working in parallel on the many different technological advances required to make these fly-sized robots fully autonomous and wireless. For example, they are working on providing it with a lightweight onboard processor, and a small, high-energy power source so that it is no longer tethered by wires.
They are also working on making the vehicles faster to produce and more durable. At the moment, it takes several days to make each robotic fly, and each vehicle can only fly for a matter of minutes before it has to be discarded. “We’re talking five to ten years before some sort of commercialization,” Fuller said.” – Source
I recently attended the RomaDrone Expo in Rome, Italy and would like to share some of the models exposed. The expo was very much oriented at the professional market. Models were mainly big multirotors with high payloads, to lift DSLR cameras, and some “wings” models for mapping. This is not a comprehensive overview, just some models that attracted my attention.
Click on the pictures to see the full size versions.
The Black Knight Transformer seems to come right out of a science fiction movie. Those scenarios of cities from the future filled with flying vehicles might be a step closer.
See the Black Knight in action in this video on youtube:
And the official press release:
EL SEGUNDO, California, 8 January 2014 – Advanced Tactics Inc., a small aerospace company, released details about its AT Transformer vehicle technology and announced that a full-scale technology demonstrator has completed its first driving tests.