Sony’s New Drone Is A Helicopter In A Plane’s Body

Wait, Sony made a drone?

For decades, aircraft design has focused on a central compromise: if an aerial vehicle wants to fly fast, it needs a plane-like body that cuts through the air and generates lift, but if it wants to take off and land vertically, it needs rotors and a much slower body. Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) is the kind of ability that usually comes with a pricetag of billions of dollars, like in the F-35B or the V-22. New drones can offer that ability at a fraction of the cost, like this new one from Sony’s drone wing Aerosense.

Watch how it takes off vertically, no runway needed:

And then flies forward like an arrow:

A pair of counter-rotating propellers sit in a ring inside the body of the plane. When parallel to the ground, they allow for a helicopter-like takeoff. Then in flight they turn perpendicular to the ground, propelling it forward like an airplane.

Made by Aerosense, a collaborative venture between Sony and ZMP Inc, the drone is expected to fly at speeds of up to 100 mph for over 2 hours while carrying cameras or other payloads weighing up to 22 pounds. The idea is to develop a drone for business customers. For example, a vehicle like this could potentially take off from the back of a truck and then inspect miles and miles of pipeline. Dull work, clever solution.

Watch the full video below:
Kelsey D. Atherton

Kelsey D. Athertonis a defense technology journalist based in Albuquerque, New Mexico. His work on drones, lethal AI, and nuclear weapons has appeared in Slate, The New York Times, Foreign Policy, and elsewhere.