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Flyability’s Gimball Drone Snatches $1M Prize

BY Alan Perlman
14 February 2015
An insect-like, crash-happy flying robot

Congratulations to Flyability, who’s Gimball drone beat out 20+ other teams for a $1M prize in the Drones for Good competition. The company expects to turn their prototype into a commercially produced unit within the next year.

Below is a transcription of the above video:

The goal of this flying robot is to reproduce the amazing capabilities of insects. Especially the fact that they can collide into things and continue flying afterwards.

To reproduce this, we realized that we could put a lot of intelligence in the mechanics by having this rotating frame around the inner frame that always remains stable even when there are collisions. So this allows us to send a robot in very difficult environments.

For example, for search and rescue missions, where there are lots of obstacles. And we can do that without complex obstacle avoidance techniques, so that we have a very lightweight platform.

The novelty of this platform is its rotating protecting frame. It decouples the inner frame with all the stabilization system in avionics, so that when the collision occurs, the inner frame remains stable, and only the outer frame rotates.

To test the robot, we flew it completely autonomously through the forest. We just gave it a magnetic direction, and without any obstacle avoidance technique it was able to fly for several hundred meters while encountering multiple collisions with trees.

Designing and building a flying platform like this is very challenging. The first challenge that I had to fight with is the weight. That’s why I built this robot with carbon fiber materials. The second one is the bonds, so the robot could remain stable after the collision.

The main advantages of this platform is that it is very robust and lightweight. And that’s because it doesn’t need heavy and complex sensors for obstacle avoidance. In fact, this robot can even use collisions, and have the obstacle guide it.

We think this platform will allow rescuers to access places that no other robot can access, and we hope that one day, we’ll be able to achieve the amazing capabilities of insects.

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