HOME  |  NEWS  |  BLOGS  |  MESSAGES  |  FEATURES  |  VIDEOS  |  WEBINARS  |  INDUSTRIES  |  FOCUS ON FUNDAMENTALS
  |  REGISTER  |  LOGIN  |  HELP
Blogs
Blog

Slideshow: These Robots Soar

NO RATINGS
View Comments: Threaded|Newest First|Oldest First
Rob Spiegel
User Rank
Blogger
A variety of flight
Rob Spiegel   8/27/2012 11:41:41 AM
NO RATINGS
What a fascinating slideshow, Ann. Quite a variety of flying robots. The helicopter motif seems to dominate. My favorite was the AirJelly.

Ann R. Thryft
User Rank
Blogger
Re: A variety of flight
Ann R. Thryft   8/27/2012 12:50:48 PM
NO RATINGS
My personal favorites are the Festo machines, especially AirPenguin and AirJelly, just because they seem so improbable, as well as being beautifully designed. But the part of me that comes from my ME grandpa is fascinated by the miniature swarming helicopters.

Ivan Kirkpatrick
User Rank
Platinum
Miniaturization
Ivan Kirkpatrick   8/27/2012 2:33:56 PM
NO RATINGS
I think the key to a lot of this interesting work is the miniaturization that has happened in control systems and powertrains.  The smaller cameras and radio devices make this technology quite useful.  More applications will develop as the technology progresses.  6 axis motion control, location and obstacle sensors coupled with computer controls and data relays will find many many applications.

Each of these machines might find a different application based on specific requirements.  Some will need to go fast, some carry loads, some perform reconnaissance and others might be just for fun.

Ann R. Thryft
User Rank
Blogger
Re: Miniaturization
Ann R. Thryft   8/27/2012 4:06:33 PM
NO RATINGS
Thanks for your insightful (as usual) comments, Ivan. The small size and amazing abilities of some of the tiniest robot flyers are impressive, and couldn't be done without much smaller, more efficient and more powerful components, including the ones you mention. Cameras and silicon are kind of obvious in the shrinking component department, but controllers and motors have taken longer to get miniaturized. Regarding the fun element, I found it interesting that at least one of these, MIT's Phoenix, originally started as a redesigned hobbyist craft. I wonder how many others began in a similar way?

Tim
User Rank
Platinum
Re: Miniaturization
Tim   8/27/2012 7:00:16 PM
NO RATINGS
It is interesting too see the items that were based on hobbies. My son has an Airhogs RC copter that actually takes downloadable video. At $60 retail, this is great miniatuarization as well as great cost reduction to make the product affordable. On the slideshow, the Air Penguin is pretty neat. Great article.

gsmith120
User Rank
Platinum
Re: Miniaturization
gsmith120   8/27/2012 7:06:58 PM
NO RATINGS
Tim your son's RC copter sounds like fun with the video capability.  I can't believe the low price.

sbkenn
User Rank
Gold
Flying robots
sbkenn   8/28/2012 2:14:16 PM
NO RATINGS
I recently spent 20 minutes watching a herring gull practising slope-soaring and precision flying, wing-tip feathers used for slow-flight control, wing flutter while hovering in an updraft, twisting tail for directional control, swooping and turning ... all without a single wingflap !

I love the Smartbird, but await a Pteradactyl.

Ann R. Thryft
User Rank
Blogger
Re: Miniaturization
Ann R. Thryft   8/28/2012 12:16:49 PM
NO RATINGS
Tim, I agree with gsmith--that's an incredibly low price for all that a ability. I'm convinced that many of these flyers must have begun as inspiration from playing with RC "toys."

RNDDUDE
User Rank
Platinum
Re: A variety of flight
RNDDUDE   8/28/2012 10:44:21 AM
NO RATINGS
Ann, although all of the devices are marvelous, I too was taken by the two helium-filled lighter-than-air devices. I would expect very long flight times for these, as power is only used for control and accelleration, and not in keeping the craft airborne. Very stealthy sound-wise also....

Ann R. Thryft
User Rank
Blogger
Re: A variety of flight
Ann R. Thryft   8/29/2012 11:59:40 AM
NO RATINGS
RNDDUDE, I think the AirJelly is probably the most sophisticated design of all of these, followed closely by AirPenguin. And they're so beautiful and so un-clunky. Festo reminds us that machines can look natural.




gsmith120
User Rank
Platinum
Re: A variety of flight
gsmith120   8/27/2012 7:11:42 PM
NO RATINGS
Ann, I really enjoy your robot stories. The AirBurr looks strange but is really cool robot.  I especially like it can stand its self back up and return to flight without human intervention, even though I can't visualize how it can accomplish this.  I would have loved to seem that in action. 

I've seen several videos of the U of PA robots.  I love them playing music.

Ann R. Thryft
User Rank
Blogger
Re: A variety of flight
Ann R. Thryft   8/28/2012 12:17:11 PM
NO RATINGS
Thanks, gsmith, I enjoy finding and writing about the amazing variety of robots. I agree, the AirBurr is very weird looking. I'm pretty sure gyros help it to right itself--that's the usual mechanism, and one used also in the Japanese flying sphere on Slide 9. The sphere costs 200x-plus Tim's Airhog price, but it's made entirely of COTS components. My guess is that one major reason for the variety of robots we're seeing recently is the broad availability of these powerful, cheap components.

Dave Palmer
User Rank
Platinum
Flying penguins
Dave Palmer   8/27/2012 12:08:15 PM
NO RATINGS
@Ann: Thanks for this.  The image of the flying penguins was particularly cool.

Usually, when engineers look to the natural world for inspiration, they look to the animal kingdom.  But plants actually provide many examples of mechanical motion, too; to convince yourself of this, just watch how flowers open and close, or how a grapevine climbs up a trellis, or (as an extreme example) how a Venus flytrap catches a bug.  A recent book describes a number of plant-inspired aerial technologies, including an electrochemical actuator to control the twist of a helicopter blade.

Ann R. Thryft
User Rank
Blogger
Re: Flying penguins
Ann R. Thryft   9/5/2012 12:18:13 PM
NO RATINGS
Thanks, Dave, for that book link. I've always been fascinated by the history of inventions. This discussion makes me wonder how many of them came spontaneously by contemplating what's around us in nature, both plants and animals.

Ann R. Thryft
User Rank
Blogger
Re: Flying penguins
Ann R. Thryft   9/6/2012 12:26:52 PM
NO RATINGS
Thanks, Dave, for that book link. I've always been fascinated by the history of inventions. This discussion makes me wonder how many of them came spontaneously by contemplating what's around us in nature, both plants and animals.

tekochip
User Rank
Platinum
Flying Jelly
tekochip   8/27/2012 12:36:10 PM
NO RATINGS
That's a means of propulsion that is very unique.

CLMcDade
User Rank
Gold
nature versus machines
CLMcDade   8/28/2012 11:20:55 AM
NO RATINGS
Hi Ann,

What a great collection of flying devices.  But a stray thought came to mind - how well will an airborne jellyfish or penguin do against a hawk?  Nature has influenced some of the designs, but it may also challenge them once they are in the sky.  After watching the smallest of sparrows chase cats away by dive bombing and pecking them, one can easily imagine the "dogfights" between these robots and birds.

The designers may have to take some cue from "Battlebots" for their final versions.

Ann R. Thryft
User Rank
Blogger
Re: nature versus machines
Ann R. Thryft   8/28/2012 12:17:44 PM
NO RATINGS
Clinton, excellent question. First, I doubt if a hawk would attack either of these, since they don't look or smell like food. But they might look like competition.Smaller birds do attack known predators, but these artificial critters would probably scare most birds. For one thing, the AirJelly is huge. Here's a video showing it next to a person--and also showing its amazing movement:
http://www.festo.com/cms/en_corp/9771_10377.htm#id_10377
I'd like to see the stats on UAVs and how birds treat those. Anyone know?

Rob Spiegel
User Rank
Blogger
Re: nature versus machines
Rob Spiegel   8/28/2012 1:18:09 PM
NO RATINGS
That video of the AirJelly is very impressive, Ann. It doesn't seem that arm movement would be sufficient to keep the craft in the air. Perhaps it's very light. 

Ann R. Thryft
User Rank
Blogger
Re: nature versus machines
Ann R. Thryft   8/28/2012 1:31:35 PM
NO RATINGS
Rob, I know what you mean: its flight looks improbable, although beautiful. But actually, it's not just the light weight--it's the amazing mechanical design and how it makes physics work for it. You can learn more about that here http://www.festo.com/rep/en_corp/assets/pdf/AirJelly_en.pdf

Rob Spiegel
User Rank
Blogger
Re: nature versus machines
Rob Spiegel   8/28/2012 1:35:15 PM
NO RATINGS
That link explians a lot, Ann. Thanks. This is a very impressive gadget. And you're right, it is beautiful to watch in flight.

Charles Murray
User Rank
Blogger
Re: nature versus machines
Charles Murray   8/28/2012 5:29:25 PM
NO RATINGS
I still think the University of Pennsylvania's quadrotor robots are among the most amazing things I've ever seen.

SparkyWatt
User Rank
Platinum
Hybrid Flyers
SparkyWatt   8/28/2012 1:35:12 PM
NO RATINGS
I would like to see more "hybrid" flyers.  Propellers are very fast and maneuverable, but they take a terrible amount of energy just to stay in the air.  Balloons stay in the air without consuming energy, but they are very slow.  It seems to me that a neutral density robot that used propellers or jets to maneuver would be the best of both worlds in most cases.  Think of how much battery life a few ounces of helium could buy.

Ann R. Thryft
User Rank
Blogger
Re: Hybrid Flyers
Ann R. Thryft   8/29/2012 12:01:16 PM
NO RATINGS
SparkyWatt, that's a very interesting design idea. Do you by any chance design robots? Or have an idea of what such a hybrid would look like and how it would work?

CLMcDade
User Rank
Gold
flying machines
CLMcDade   8/28/2012 2:04:31 PM
NO RATINGS
The off-the-shelf toys are lots of fun and definitely lead to breakthroughs for these more "serious" applications.  Last year, I saw one flying in the local Brookstone store.  It was a quad-rotor styrofoam device, with front mounted camera that sent the images to an I-phone.

We flew it out of the store, into the mall hallway, using only the image on the I-phone to guide the device. Here's a link to its webpage - watch the video - lots of fun to be had. 

http://www.brookstone.com/parrot-ar-drone-2-quadricopter?bkiid=SearchResults|CategoryProductList|786406p

And the interest is not just the technology, but also the ways people use it.  How cool would it be to be able to fly your camera in for a closer look at a crowded tourist location or outdoor performance?

Ann R. Thryft
User Rank
Blogger
Re: flying machines
Ann R. Thryft   8/29/2012 12:00:32 PM
NO RATINGS
Clinton, thanks for the video link. That's by Parrot's AR Drone 2.0 quadricopter-protected version. We show version 2.0 (without the quadricopter) in Slide 3 of this slideshow. It's a talented machine full of features.

William K.
User Rank
Platinum
Robots that soar
William K.   8/28/2012 7:59:10 PM
NO RATINGS
These are interesting and useful types of robots, that is certain. But the Japanese "sphere" thing is not that big a deal. I have seen another video of it, and it is mostly a helicopter with a spherical space-frame shroud, which does offer a good bit of protection. 

I have also seen the cheap helicopter thing that sends pictures back to a smartphone. It is quite a toy. A similar device equipped with a high resolution camera would be a serious snooping tool, all for under a hundred bucks. So now every kid can snoop wherever things can fly. Of course, no laws will be passed about this until some politician is compromised big-time, then we will see just what the courts will have to say.

But the flying remote piloted robots are here to stay, and getting better and cheaper every day. IT will certainly be "an interesting time." 

Thinking_J
User Rank
Platinum
Laws have already "passed"
Thinking_J   8/28/2012 9:10:47 PM
NO RATINGS
Currently there are numerous laws governing these devices.In the US....

- all remote and autonomous flying machines (that don't carry people) must operate within a 400' virtual cube or visual range of human operator/supervisor with a max altitude of 400'. Depends on which laws are being quoted. (FAA)

Obviously the US Military has exclusion from most of these rules... especially, outside the US.

- All said devices cannot operate where they may interfere with full size aircraft (FAA).. specifies on this vary a bit. Basically, don't fly at the end of the runway!

- There is some legal liability issues .. reason why most RC modelers work with AMA rules and their insurance. Don't want to lose radio contact or control, see it crash into a car, while it is going down the freeway, then be held personally responsible for the results!

- NO one can use these devices under current law for professional aerial photography or any professional service (this is a ridiculous recent ruling). This shut down one CA company. Doesn't matter if you a operating it within 10ft!

- Law enforcement use of these types of devices for aerial surveillance of any type is currently being reviewed and debated, Lot of concern over privacy abuse. Silly. when it is already being done with full size helicopters.

Of course, because it is still a new field.. enforcement of any of these laws is spotty at best. Most were intended to keep RC modeling safe.

My favorite quote from Frank Zappa: "We are a nation of laws - randomly enforced".

In other countries..... a license is required for operation of these flying machines.

 

Ann R. Thryft
User Rank
Blogger
Re: Laws have already "passed"
Ann R. Thryft   9/6/2012 12:22:27 PM
NO RATINGS
Thinking_J, thanks for all that info all about legal ramifications of flying robots in the US. Who would've guessed such laws were already in place, and that there are so many of them?

bobjengr
User Rank
Platinum
These Robots Soar
bobjengr   9/1/2012 11:17:01 AM
NO RATINGS
I can envision many applications for these small soaring robots, all of which would not be an invasion of privacy.   Thinking_J has excellent points governing use and I'm somewhat amazed that law-making agencies have already formulated laws restricting their use.   A great number of uses seem to be desirable for inspecting physical structures; buildings, power plants, cooling towers, etc. as well as hazardous sites restricting entry by emergency personnel.  I wonder if any governmental agencies offer waivers for this type of work strictly for commercial purposes?    

Partner Zone
More Blogs
Robots came into their own in the 1970s. Gone were the low-budget black-and-white B movies. Now robots roamed in full-color feature films with A-list actors.
Major global metropolitan areas are implementing a vast number of technology, energy, transportation, and Internet projects to make the metropolis a friendlier, greener, safer, and more sustainable place to be.
Here’s a look at robots depicted in movies and on TV during the 1950s and 1960s. We tried to collect the classics here, omitting the scores of forgettable B movies such as Santa Claus Conquers the Martians and Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine. Stay tuned for slideshows of robot stars from later decades.
A scientist at the University of Pittsburgh has achieved a breakthrough in the quest to create artificial cartilage with human cells for treatment of degenerative joint disease.
The LG G Watch is a smartwatch that was released by LG on June 25. It runs the Android-based Android Wear OS. See how it compares to Samsung's Gear Live, released the same day.
Design News Webinar Series
7/17/2014 11:00 a.m. California / 2:00 p.m. New York
6/25/2014 11:00 a.m. California / 2:00 p.m. New York
5/13/2014 10:00 a.m. California / 1:00 p.m. New York / 6:00 p.m. London
7/23/2014 11:00 a.m. California / 2:00 p.m. New York
Quick Poll
The Continuing Education Center offers engineers an entirely new way to get the education they need to formulate next-generation solutions.
Jul 21 - 25, Design Products With Bluetooth Low Energy
SEMESTERS: 1  |  2  |  3  |  4  |  5  |  6


Focus on Fundamentals consists of 45-minute on-line classes that cover a host of technologies. You learn without leaving the comfort of your desk. All classes are taught by subject-matter experts and all are archived. So if you can't attend live, attend at your convenience.
Next Class: August 12 - 14
Sponsored by igus
Learn More   |   Login   |   Archived Classes
Twitter Feed
Design News Twitter Feed
Like Us on Facebook

Sponsored Content

Technology Marketplace

Copyright © 2014 UBM Canon, A UBM company, All rights reserved. Privacy Policy | Terms of Service