After years of development and military funding setbacks, defense contractor Lockheed Martin is finally ready to debut its maple seed-inspired drone. The one-winged, one-foot-long SAMARAI drone just flew a test flight for the Associated Press ahead of its official unveiling at an unmanned vehicle conference next week.
The asymmetric UAV is modeled after maple seeds, called samara, that fly off trees and twirl through the air with the utmost efficiency. Originally, the SAMARAI was envisioned as a seed-sized drone that could deliver a 2-gram payload and send back streaming video, but that has since changed to a much bigger, whining drone.
The current model has just two moving parts, allowing it to fly with a cyclic lift motion like that of a helicopter. It does have a camera on board, and it can be operated via remote control or a tablet computer, the AP says. Check out a video of it below.
The Samarai is just one of a suite of new unmanned vehicles that will be on display next week in Washington, D.C., at the convention of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International. PopSci will be reporting from this year's convention, so check back regularly starting Aug. 16 for updates on the latest in unmanned vehicles, from the ground to the air.
It's basically a helicopter with one rotor and no body. Thank you nature.
It's not clear that this confers any particular advantage, having only one lopsided blade, so it seems apparent that it is little more than a proof of concept. Theoretically it may mean less total air resistance than a two bladed design, but only if you don't make the one wing huge compared to two-bladed designs.
At present, it looks like it would make for a jittery platform to do surveillance.
Theoretically the cameras on this UAV could operate in 3D, due to the cyclic motion of the main body... essentially the body motion would be synch'd to the frame rates of the CCD, so you get a picture of something from a different position, so you then can attain a 3D image.
I see the main value as being production cost and durability.
Fewer parts, less mechanical complexity and (guessing), prolly smaller span (foot-print) per unit payload.
I can see a C-130, or a Global-Hawk deploying swarms of thes buggers, along ridgelines, or urban centers ... Instant (perch-n-snooze)sensor-net.
Aditionally, by depositing thousands of network-synchronized munitions, a plethora of combined/coordinated effects could be acheived ... Perfect for targeted deposition of smart-dust and even tomographic, composit scanning arrays, etc.
Certainly, image stabilization and tomographic algorythms already exist, for such apps and, because of the unit cost, development (failures) will be very affordable.
I still thing scaling is way down will be helpful for setting up wi-fi sensor & comm relays, inside ships and military bases, where traditional communications are not possible.
THESE CAN BE SUBMERSIBLE and hybernate, in the litorals.
Noisy, these could be cheaply made and distract/provoke enemy fire from the 'real' drones.
Yeah, that's what I was thinking. Simplicity is good. If you could make these small and cheap enough that you could deploy a ton of them, you'd be able to get huge amounts of surveillance data without having to worry about the enemy shooting down a single, highly expensive unit. Even if they shoot down a dozen of these, so what? You've still got thousands more, and your network still works as a result. They do still need to figure out how to reduce the noise if they want to use smaller numbers of them for covert ops, though.
A normal copter can have counter-rotating blades or a tail to counter gyroscopic effects, but this doesn't appear to have that. Traditionally a single blade design at least needs a counter-weight, which explains why this is so wobbly. Of course, the fact that it wobbles might theoretically make it a little harder to hit.
People keep talking about scaling these things down and turning them out like hot-cakes, but that's easier said than done. Scaling down means having a very small, yet high performance power plant. This design might be based upon something small, like a maple seed, but that doesn't mean that it will be easy or cheap to scale a system down to that size.
I'm not convinced that the wobbly design adds any advantages that could not be obtained more easily from a traditional system or that it saves money in terms of design, given that the blade is not the major expense of the system. As I said, it might confer some aerodynamic advantages, but only quite modestly, and only if significantly modified from this prototype. Why have to stabilize the system when you could have designed a more stable system to begin with? Why use the erratic wobble to approximate some 3-d imaging when you could use a more conventional system that is already off the shelf and tested? As far as submerging these devices, I suspect they will do that on their own when they crash and burn.
That thing would scare the sh!t out of me if it came flying by my head. Put some barbs on the UAV and make the blade a Carbon fiber sword. Now just install programming that makes it fly back to you like a boomerang.
I had a smiler idea but using the natural spin of it as a sort of parachute to deploy troops on a larger scale having the center holding the troops be floating to reduce spin and the leaf part deploy on drop.
Properly constructed, it could be used as a flying guillotine.