Last month Moble Benedict and students at Texas A&M demonstrated an interestng little “microdrone” which is neither a quadcopter nor a wing flapper—it is a cyclocopter. What is a “cyclocopter”, anyway?
The idea is that the propulsion is from rotors that look like “paddle wheels”, which generating lift and directional control. Just looking at it, it doesn’t look like it should really work, but it obviously does, because, there it is. <See Evan Ackerman’s explanation and interview)
The design is said to be “bioinspired”, though this refers to the wings, not the Mississippi steamboat style paddle wheels. The idea has been around for a while, but only recently are sufficiently strong light-weight materials available. I suspect that steering this little bug is less than obvious, too.
The researchers say that this approach is more efficient that quad rotors, and a transition from hovering to forward flight is more efficient that other designs. (I’ll take their word for it.)
I note that this group is also creating hummingbird drones, and also wind turbines.
Looking at the pictures, I realize that the cyclocopter rotors are basically the same idea and the same physics as vertical axis wind turbines, except everything runs backwards. There is method to their madness.
Very nice work.
And full points for “thinking outside the quadcopter”!
- Carl C. Runco, Moble Benedict, and David Coleman, Design and Development of a Meso-Scale Cyclocopter, in AIAA Infotech @ Aerospace. American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, 2016. http://dx.doi.org/10.2514/6.2016-1255