All drones are quadcopters, right? Wrong.
We’ve already seen hybrid propulsion drones such as the Rolling Spider made by Parrot. This clever toy drone has not one, but two motors that can be controlled in a differentiated manner in order to control the attitude and speed of the drone. The lift of each propellor exerts upwards force on the drone in opposition to the drone’s torque, creating motion. The result is a deceptively motionless action, as all four propellers rotate at the same speed whilst lifting forces compensate for the weight of the drone. In addition to this, a shaft with large wheel can be added to the drone, allowing it to not only fly but also be driven on the ground, along walls,and even on ceilings.
A new patent submitted recently in the USA however, takes this concept of hybrid propulsion one step further. This new invention proposes a rotary wing device that can transform into a fixed wing vehicle, with lift-producing wings much like a traditional airplane.
How does it work?
While the drone is proposed to possess standard rotary wings, the link arms of the rotary wings are essentially aerofoils made of two portions. The first portion is horizontal when in traditional airplane flight position, while the second forms a junctions between the horizontal wing section and the body of the drone. Forming a sweeping angle relative to the drone body, each complete wing is interconnected with reinforcements, but lack the wing control surface of traditional airplane wings. Both configurations allow easy UAV control along the lines of that which we see everyday.
However, the drone body in this case is more along the lines of a fuselage, being elongated and is perpendicular to the plane of the propellers. The proposed patent design also comprises an ultrasonic sensor, and likely also a camera sensor pointing perpendicularly to the propellers.
One can’t help but think, has there been inspiration taken from the X-Wing fighters made popular in George Lucas’ Star Wars movie series? The X-Wing fighter is definitely not a drone (we would never take away from Luke’s prowess in that area!). Certainly, the fictional X-Wing is designed for space combat, does not require aerofoils and does not possess rotary propellers – but just think about it. The X-Wing fighter has two flight modes. Standard flight mode brings the two wing portions together flat. Then, there is “attack position”, in which the two portions of each flat wing are expanded to enable the wingtip lasers a larger fire area.
It might seem far-fetched…or is it? While the patent is still pending on this model, it’s likely we will see more and more hybrid drone configurations being designed in the near and far future.