When we talk about a drone, most of us think of the modern quadcopter style hobbyist vehicle, some of us think RC airplane, but now we invite you to think both at the same time. The new DelftAcopter sports a single main propeller that can lift the craft upward like a helicopter, then tip over and scoot along as an airplane.
That’s Delta-wing Electric Longrange Transitioning Autonomous Helicopter – DelftAcopter, got it?
The biplane helicopter drone, as they’ve described it, is designed by MAVLab TU Delft, with some support from Parrot. Two parallel wings act as legs when in the helicopter upright position, but then provide the necessary lift for high speed flight when you get moving. With speeds up to 62MPH this is certainly one of the faster drones out there.
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Flight stability, for the drone enthusiasts out there, is provided by two small propellers mounted on a bridge between the wings, right at their tips. Providing the appropriate opposing force to counteract spin from the single main propeller. Despite my research, I am not able to identify if these balancing props continue to produce thrust while the DelftAcopter is in airplane mode, it appears there are fixed angle ailerons to stabilize the horizontal flight, but no info to back that up.
This flying style does not afford the level of stability that DJI Mavic or GoPro Karma pilots are going to want for their aerial photography, but that’s not the point of the DelftAcopter. With a 10,000mAh battery on board, this nearly 9 lb drone is designed for up to an hour of flight with a range of 37 miles – TU Delft isn’t building this drone for you and I, they’re building it for search and rescue.
Powerful enough to deliver emergency medical supplies to otherwise unreachable locations, the goal for this drone is as a rescue UAV. GPS, motion sensors and computer vision allow autonomous flight with less likelihood of a crash, damaging or losing valuable supplies due to human error or communication problems at range.
It appears DelftAcopter has been built almost exactly to spec to compete in the Australian Outback Joe competition. Participants are required to autonomously find ‘Joe’ in an approximate area up to 30 KM away, land as to close to 30 m from ‘Joe’ as possible and return with a payload within one hour. The event was last week and was DelftAcopter’s first major trial run, taking home second prize and an Airmanship award. Not bad for an aircraft that appears to be partially held together by some masking tape.
Any drone enthusiasts out there now thinking of building their own DelftAcopter to conduct their own search and rescue missions?