Drone builders have challenges they face with each new design. If the drones are too big, they can’t fit into tight spaces where they need to operate. If the drones are too small, they can’t carry the batteries required for long flight times. An EPFL researcher called Samir Bouabdallah has developed a propulsion system for drones that is similar to that used by helicopters.
The new drones are to be marketed by Bouabdallah’s company called Flybotix. The drones use two propellers and an algorithm-based stabilization mechanism to give his drone the performance of a helicopter and the mechanical stability of a quadcopter. Reducing the propellers from four to two allows them to be longer, and more efficient.
Using fewer propellers that are more efficient mean that the battery in the drone lasts longer, providing longer flight duration. The challenge with dual rotor drones has been that they are less stable and harder to manipulate. Bouabdallah’s design has a ring-like structure that is 30cm in diameter surrounding the two propellers that turn in opposite directions.
Another innovation in the drones he has created involves the stabilization mechanism used. An algorithm offsets the two rotating forces and serves the same function as the transmission in a helicopter. That allows the drones to be piloted using a conventional remote control, just like a quadcopter.
The design of the drone with the foam covering on its outer ring allows the drone to bounce off obstacles without breaking. Bouabdallah sees the first application of the tech for inspecting dangerous or hard-to-reach areas. The current plan is to launch the Flybotix drones on the Chinese market first.