19 Oct 2016
World innovation news
The Most Significant Innovations in 2016 in the Field of Quadcopters
The diversity of applications related to quadcopter drones has shown tremendous growth in recent years. The increase in the number of Google searches related to the term “drone”, with peak periods occurring during the Christmas season, demonstrates the growing popularity of this technology in the areas of civilian industry and recreation. As the year draws to a close, we could ask ourselves what the most innovative applications were among those that emerged in 2016. Following is an overview of the different innovations in quadcopters in the medical, wildlife, sports, and transportation sectors.
A Drone That Can Save Lives
Drones are still being associated with lethal use. This is understandable since this field was pioneered for military applications. However, just as aircrafts, telecommunications, and computers, more and more drones are appearing in civilian sectors and their purpose has greatly evolved. For example, the ambulance drone is designed to save lives by carrying a defibrillator in case of heart attacks, at the scene of emergencies. The human brain can die after 4 to 6 minutes of a traumatic event, and the time for an ambulance to arrive at the scene of an emergency is on average 10 min… This is a sad fact for the million of Europeans suffering from heart problems each year. The ambulance drone prototype developed by Alec Momont, graduate student at the Delft University of Technology, in the Netherlands, can transport a defibrillator to the scene of an emergency at speeds of up to 100 km/h. Within a radius of 12 km2, it can reach its destination in less than a minute. It can then provide instructions to the person on site, which can help increase the chances of survival of the victim by up to 80%. Nevertheless, there is still some way to go before we see these drones in circulation. Indeed, some obstacle avoidance devices still need to be fine-tuned. In addition, Dutch law does not allow them to circulate. These barriers should be overcome over the next year.
A Drone that Can Save Bambi
Each year, the small Swiss deer face a major predator: the combine harvester. Unfortunately, their natural reflex when they feel danger is to take refuge in the tall grass and freeze on site. This leads to a disastrous outcome for close to 2,000 fawns per year. Fortunately, the School of Agricultural, Forest and Food Sciences in Berne developed a tracking system for the fawns using drones equipped with thermal cameras. When an animal is spotted, a protected area is created around it, thereby avoiding a sad ending.
A Drone That Can Take Sports Pictures
The next invention concerns drones that will take photos and videos. The possibilities of shots from a quadcopter opens up new opportunities for almost limitless creativity, and sports applications are a particular target market for drone manufacturers. One of the latest arrivals on the scene, last September, was the Hexo+, which can be flown entirely with the use of a smartphone. This technology, very easy to use, features a “user-friendly” interface into which many film trajectories can be pre-programed. This means that it is no longer necessary to be an expert pilot to achieve spectacular and original shots.
A Drone for Transportation
This idea is admittedly a bit futuristic, but it is nevertheless an innovation that could revolutionize the world of transportation and our everyday lives. Imagine being able to avoid the daily traffic jams on the Champlain Bridge when going to work in Montréal, flying above the St. Lawrence River aboard a quadcopter. This is the type of solution that is being considered by the Chinese company Ehang. Indeed, the aerial vehicle Ehang 184 is capable of carrying a maximum load of 100 kg, at a top speed of 100 km/h, for an average duration of 20 minutes, and at an altitude of up to 3,500 meters. While landings and take-offs are fully automated, the rest of the flight is operated by the user via an application downloaded to a smartphone. Movement is achieved via TapFly, an application that allows users to simply touch the map displayed on the screen to indicate where they want to go. A series of tests on this device are being conducted by the Lung Biotechnology laboratory, located in Nevada, to transport artificial organs across 36 US states. Special permission to this effect was granted in conjunction with the Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems and the Governor’s Office of Economic Development. Nonetheless, while trying to develop this project on a large scale, the Chinese company is facing legal barriers. Indeed, if the courts were to liberalize the use of this type of device, specific safety measures would likely need to be imposed on certified pilots to help avoid accidents. The company plans to move towards a fully automated operation of its aircrafts to avoid human error.
After this brief overview, it is easy to imagine the many other sectors that could be developed, such as investigations, audiovisual, load transport, monitoring… The future holds promising potential for these flying machines that could, in a few years, become an integral part of the urban landscape and our daily lives!
Jérémy Brossard began a PhD in electrical engineering at the ÉTS, in January 2016. The subject of his thesis is to extend the performance of a control method patented in 2015, the B Control for quadcopters, to improve performance.
Program : Electrical Engineering