DARPA recently flew a fully-laden quadcopter through an indoor obstacle course at 45 mph (32 km/h) as part of the agency's Fast Lightweight Autonomy (FLA) program. The test flight was conducted entirely under autonomous control with the goal of developing small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) with the ability to navigate through tight spaces without the need for outside control or GPS.
Conventional drones are often billed as portable, though they're also often a collection of rods, rotors, and other bits and pieces that are perfect for catching on things and getting tangled. To make taking drones into the backcountry a bit less onerous, Beijing-based Powervision Robot has taken the gubbins of a quadcopter and built them into a giant PowerEgg that folds up into one smooth package shaped like a cackleberry for transport.
The ever-expanding arena of drones and three-dimensional remote-controlled flight is fascinating and fun. And if you're looking to take your quadcopter game to the next level, first-person view (FPV) with a built-in camera is where it's at. But before you plunk down hard-earned cash for the big boys, you probably want to make sure you have a good handle of it all first. We spent some time behind the controls of an eye in the sky, with the latest quadcopter from Axis Drones, the Vidius.
Fires in high-rises can be particularly deadly. This is partially because of the buildings' "chimney" effect, along with the fact that it's just plain difficult for firefighters to reach the flames. With that in mind, researchers at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) have created the flying, wall-climbing, fire-resistant FAROS quadcopter. It's designed to ascertain the source of a fire as soon as possible, along with the locations of people trapped within the building.
Intel has teamed up Austria's Ars Electronica Center to set a new world record for the most drones to be airborne simultaneously. The display saw 100 unmanned aerial vehicles take flight in pre-programmed formation, offering onlookers an impressive light show synchronized to the sounds of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony.
As might be expected, there are a lot of drones on display this week at CES. Almost all of them have one thing in common, however: people can't ride in them. We say "almost all," as there is one exception. Ehang's 184 AAV (Autonomous Aerial Vehicle) is designed to carry a single human passenger, autonomously flying them from one location to another.
Hexacopter flight times over an hour should soon become possible. Chinese drone manufacturer Walkera has decided to go beyond the battery, teaming up with micro-generator producers at GenSmart to build a new hybrid powertrain for its QR X900 professional heavy lifter. A tiny, efficient methanol motor charges the battery during flight, allowing long flight times and instant refueling and it can be switched off so the drone can operate in "stealth mode" when necessary.
You've got your first quadcopter, you've read the broken-English manual and assembled it, you've got your head around the transmitter and you're ready to give this thing a crack. Here are some basic exercises to try on your first few flights that will hopefully help you make it to your second few flights with just as many props, frames, pets and limbs as you started with.
Multicopters are one of the hottest consumer gadgets on the market, and for good reason. They're cheap, easy to fly, a ton of fun, and by far the easiest way to get into radio controlled flying. This Drone School series is our way to help new flyers get off the ground, and over the next few weeks we'll get into some exercises to build your skills and capabilities for maximum fun with minimal crashes. For starters, let's look at how to pick a good first quadcopter.