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TechJect’s Dragonfly micro UAV flies like a bird and hovers like an insect

By

November 7, 2012

The TechJect Dragonfly fits in the palm of a hand

The TechJect Dragonfly fits in the palm of a hand

Image Gallery (18 images)

Given their impressive flight capabilities, it’s not surprising to see researchers turning to the world of flying insects for inspiration when developing new kinds of micro UAVs. With their ability to both fly at high speeds and hover, the dragonfly would seem an obvious candidate for biomimicry. But with the exception of the DelFly, we hadn’t seen many attempts to model a micro UAV on the dragonfly’s four wing design. That could be changing with a multi-disciplinary team from Georgia Tech having developed a robotic four-winged ornithopter called the TechJect Dragonfly that fits in the palm of a hand and combines the flight capabilities of a quadricopter, helicopter and fixed wing aircraft in one.

The TechJect Dragonfly is the culmination of four years of research and development at Georgia Tech, assisted by US$1 million in funding from the U.S. Air Force. TechJect is a spinoff out of Georgia Tech’s Robotics & Intelligent Machines (RIM) Department that was created to bring the Dragonfly and other robotic flyers to market. To that end, the TechJect team has turned to crowdfunding site indiegogo to help get the Dragonfly off the ground.

As well as borrowing its wing design from its biological namesake, the Dragonfly is also similar in size, measuring 15 cm (6 in) long. It weighs around 25 g (0.88 oz) and is powered by a 250 mAh lithium polymer battery that provides hover times of 8-10 minutes and a hybrid (hover/flight) time of 25 to 30 minutes.

The Dragonfly features a four-wing design

Designed with a focus on modular customization, the Dragonfly carries up to 20 onboard sensors to suit a variety of applications, from aerial photography, gaming, research and development, civilian security and military reconnaissance. The modular approach results in the availability of various flight control packages.

Alpha model

The Alpha model, which can be secured with a US$99 pledge (provided the funding goal is met) but is estimated to retail at $250 or more, comes with a MARC-Basic flight computer, solenoidal actuators, and flight accessories including a remote controller, battery and charger.

The Alpha model Dragonfly

Delta model

The Delta model has the same MARC-Basic flight computer and flight accessories, but the solenoidal actuators are replaced with a continuously variable transmission (CVT), which improves performance, particularly in terms of hovering. A spare set of wings is also included. The Delta can be had for a pledge of $179, with the retail price estimated to be around $500.

The Delta model Dragonfly

Gamma model

Aimed at R & D, prototyping and programming applications, the Gamma model sees the flight computer upgraded to the MARC-2 and adds a camera and Wi-Fi, so it can be controlled via a computer, iPhone or Android smartphone.

The CVT found on the Delta also features on the Gamma, and the same flight accessories, along with a spare set of wings are also included. A pledge of $249 will secure the Gamma model, which is expected to retail for $750.

The Gamma model Dragonfly

Omega model

The top line model is the Omega, which is powered by a more powerful MARC-3 flight computer that boasts 20 onboard sensors (including two cameras), and features a CVT and Wi-Fi. The familiar flight accessories and an extra set of wings are also included. The Omega requires a pledge of $399, with an expected price of $1,499 at retail.

The Omega model Dragonfly

All models are offered in blue, green, yellow, orange, red, black, white and silver color options and come with a fully customizable software development kit (SDK) for the creation of custom applications. However, TechJect will offer a number of free apps for iOS and Android devices and PCs. There will also be an online forum where users can share their custom apps and get development help from the TechJect team.

The Dragonfly's modular construction also allows the future upgrade of various components, such as the wings, actuators, and onboard electronics. These will be available through the TechJect website.

TechJect is looking to raise $110,000 via indigogo by the time the calendar ticks over to 2013. If it achieves its goal, TechJect aims to be delivering Dragonflies to pledge-makers from July, 2013.

The TechJect team gives an overview of the Dragonfly in the video below.

Source: indiegogo via TechJect

Update:

This article was amended on November 8, 2012, to include a reference to the DelFly.

About the Author
Darren Quick Darren's love of technology started in primary school with a Nintendo Game & Watch Donkey Kong (still functioning) and a Commodore VIC 20 computer (not still functioning). In high school he upgraded to a 286 PC, and he's been following Moore's law ever since. This love of technology continued through a number of university courses and crappy jobs until 2008, when his interests found a home at Gizmag.   All articles by Darren Quick
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18 Comments

looks cool, but until i see a bit more than computer generated images, I'm just a little bit skeptical. Even the video of it in action looks a little fake, and the people interviewed are holding a mockup that is quite a bit different from the cgi-version.

Cool if true, but i suspect someone is having fun with the media

jaqen
7th November, 2012 @ 01:46 am PST

Why can't it be upsized for personal transport?

Edgar Castelo
7th November, 2012 @ 03:14 am PST

Dear jaqen,

Wow!! You must be trolling.

You do realise that the computer generated images are concept plans for the final product.

It's how it's going to look when it hits market in 2013.

The so-called "mockup", how you like to describe it, is a prototype one can clearly see flying in the demonstration video clip.

I know this also could be computer generated, I'm not naive, but is it so hard to believe that after four years of research and hard work some clever people actually made it happen?

It's one thing to be skeptical, but don't misplaced it with illogical reasoning.

Fishing Zebra
7th November, 2012 @ 05:26 am PST

Still, I'd prefer 1 minute showing a half-baked full of potential real model than this chatting and cgi. They are not getting my money yet. Sorry.

cachurro
7th November, 2012 @ 06:59 am PST

Cool idea but fragile. If it performs as projected it will have many uses, I wonder however if something better isn't in the works or should be.

You could design a spherical device with spinning outer ring to provide life and directional movement as needed, hovering, etc (picture a Snitch from Harry Potter-without the wings). Seems like that would be more durable, could fit in smaller places, uploaded with same options as video, gps, etc.

yinfu99
7th November, 2012 @ 08:41 am PST

Seriously, this is frickin awesome!

Fahrenheit 451
7th November, 2012 @ 08:59 am PST

I'll wait until they're $29.99 at Walmart or Target to get mine.

Gregory Gannotti
7th November, 2012 @ 09:14 am PST

Polished presentations with little real information always raise doubts in my mind. Great art department though....

DemonDuck
7th November, 2012 @ 09:23 am PST

No trolling is occurring here ..................... instead skepticism

This looks like it could be a scam or over-enthusiasm ..... I have been guilty of that myself.

I want to see an actual flying model and what the on-board video looks like while it is flying. What is the battery life profile ? What is the maximum speed ?

The DF should have wireless charging so that it can return to it's base and recharge and then continue patrolling.

Outdoors, the DF will probably be blown away by a moderate wind.

The prices for the more advanced models are too high.

Even at a high price... this could be wonderful if it works.

Who knows these guys ? Have they built any kind of working prototype ?

Best of Luck

99guspuppet 99uavdragonfly

99gusPuppet
7th November, 2012 @ 09:40 am PST

I guess this is an RC device ? It can be captured with a butterfly net.

The white wings make it way to visible, some camouflage would be nice. What is the flight-time and how long takes a recharge, Make sure you do not sell it to terrorists.

jochair
7th November, 2012 @ 09:50 am PST

Nice graphics but the 'real' flight footage is so brief, and that brings me to my point of skepticism, and that regards the energy density of the power supply and the claims of 8 to 10 minutes of flight. As with so many of these flapping wing things, most never demonstrate any useful endurance because they use electrical propulsion viz a viz the Harvard piezoelectric flapping wing thing that has ascended to new heights with its media blitz, but can't seem to lift its own power source. Can TechJet pull this off for $110K with a LiPo battery?

ata19274895
7th November, 2012 @ 11:23 am PST

I also prefer unpolished presentations, without the gimmicky sale persuasion. But they have to try to wrap it up in a nice ribbon if they are going to have any luck with marketing and funding from the audience.

I suspect that they still need time to work out any possible fault and hurdles with flying stability when it comes to fine tuning mechanical principles and programing decent algorithms that works. That could explain why the actual demonstration video clips are brief. They show examples of successful flight, rest of the actual video clips the Dragonfly probably crashed far too often for potentially future collaborations and customers.... who knows.

Another possibility is that they guard their cards carefully.

They want it to be the new thing on everybody's lips, make it grow on social media in good time before shipping. They don't want to spoil everything at once. In a similar way what a movie trailer dos for a upcoming feature film.

Plus they don't want the Chinese to copy their technology and ideas before they have a chance to apply for an International patent.

I believe Andrea Rossi has a passion for his work on the controversial Rossi E-Cat. He believes his coldfusion energy contraption will work and revolutionize the world. Maybe it will not work as it was promised, but that doesn't make him a scammer who is only after big profit without caring if it works or not.

The same goes for the engineers, technicians and designers who have worked hard, so that TechJect’s Dragonfly can possibly become a reality one day. In all likelihood also they have a passion for what they do. Only time will show if the project will succeed on all aspects.

Fishing Zebra
7th November, 2012 @ 11:57 am PST

I am wondering how these will handle in wind. It is so light and has quite a bit of wing surface area that it is somewhat hard to believe that it can be used for conditions other than those with very light or no wind.

rcg828
7th November, 2012 @ 12:02 pm PST

Google this: Towards Energy Efficiency in Micro Hovering Air Vehicles

by Jayant Ratti.

Here... this should kill all your skepticism, cynicism, trolling what ever.. I really hate it, when innovation and novelty is given the boot, thats not what this country is about and not the reason we're ahead of the world either, what, when, who... You should Google the founder's name: I just found this online: Jayant Ratti from Georgia Tech. Apparently he has a Ph.D. in Robotics and about 5 to 10 publications on Google Scholar

I was reading this paper and the introduction alone talks about how their 4 wing widget at Georgia Tech is better than a 2 wing "ornithopter".

I agree with Fishing Zebra..

The skepticism is well placed, its good to be addressed BUT please please read and learn before slapping comments together

You know I cool!
7th November, 2012 @ 06:36 pm PST

And you know what being an entrepreneur myself I want to tell people about Crowd-funding platforms like RocketHub and Indiegogo and so many others.

1. Novelty: What IS being offered on there is the chance to get something unique, that doesn't exist and will fulfill an application and will meet aesthetics as well; that is the purpose and mission for all crowd-funding platforms and us entrepreneurs.

2. Pre-launch: the campaigns aims to only help the founders work with the contract manufacturers, so the systems can be robustly made and to sort out concerns for field application. There is considerable work required before a user-proof system can be delivered. Weight shedding and manufacturing problems ALL hardware systems encounter and these will be addressed over time.

3. Skepticism: Although criticism for us entrepreneurs is crucial to keep us on track and focused on the mission but realize this: if novelty came as cheap as a whistle and next-gen technologies were being offered by all entrepreneurs at rock bottom prices, we would all be on amazon or ebay trying to snag whats available already. There is a reason for the outblown success of crowd-funding platforms.

4. I've seen these founders work endlessly and tirelessly with the manufacturers to package the products into something robust and aesthetically pleasing. The designs are ready but the funding available to take on manufacturing expenses is not, which is why the crowd-funding.

5. Pre-Market: Finally offering systems to users before the market makes them available through competitors is what drives the entrepreneurial world. However, the cost can not be cut and aesthetics/functionality can not be compromised under any circumstances to offer something immature and destroy the reputation of the entrepreneurs. That is not the model of a good startup business.

Now go to a few crowd-funding websites and see some of the hard work people are putting into making humanity better and keep your cynical boots to critical questions instead.

You know I cool!
7th November, 2012 @ 06:54 pm PST

It looks very neat but battery life is key. While watching the video I wondered if a bird might attack it... Anyway, kewl :-)

Michael Burch
8th November, 2012 @ 05:03 pm PST

I wish the creators well!

My concern is that they learn the lesson of all missionary products as quickly and painlessly as possible.

My observation is that they have chosen a line of products defined from an engineers viewpoint. These may sell to engineers and App developers.

The way to some financial stability though is to solve a problem no one else has solved in a turn key way so that the market with the problem can buy as complete a solution as possible from your company.

I realize the crowd source gimme incremental contribution structures the offering for now.

Best if the group reached out for problems to solve. Of course it would be unusual if new Phd.s like teenagers didn't think they knew answers.

attoman
10th November, 2012 @ 03:53 pm PST

how much weght can it handel

Kaile Shultz
7th November, 2013 @ 02:33 pm PST
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