3D Robotics

Balloon-launched and disposable UAVs


Another good article from IEEE Spectrum. I'm particularly interested in the disposable glider drone at the bottom, which is basically just a PCB with wings. (Because this comes from the research arm of the Navy, and is of broad technical interest to this community, I am make a sysadmin exemption to our no-military rule. I don't do it often.


Here's a wild way to launch UAVs: by using a high-altitude weather balloon with a drone stapled to it, with drones stapled to it. Nope, that's not a typo: The Naval Research Laboratory has been using weather balloons to carry a medium-sized Tempest UAV up to 60,000 feet, and the Tempest UAV itself is carrying a pair of tiny little CICADA (Close-In Covert Autonomous Disposable Aircraft ) drones underneath its wings. Look:

The Tempest can travel up to 30 miles and deploy the CICADAs as gliders, which can then land within 15 feet of their target coordinates. Each CICADA can carry a variety of sensor payloads, and as the name implies, they're designed to be cheap and disposable: The airframe is actually just a custom printed circuit board.

This balloon launch multi-drone thing in particular is very cool, since whatever you attach to the balloon can use its engine purely for range as opposed to altitude. And dropping off these little microdrones to get in and do the dirty work saves a bunch of money and adds that much more versatility to the entire system.

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  • @ Gary

    Gary wrote: The difference between doing it and doing it elegantly is like night and day. 

    I would remove the word elegantly and replace it by regularly as in a commercial service. It is hard work. It is one  thing to fly one Arducopter in bright sunny day with no winds and it is totally different thing to fly several in unpredictable weather. 


  • @Bosak

    You are correct IN GENERAL.

    In my case in Canada, the techies (businesses in general) have learned that if you do not propose regulation then some non-techie bureaucrat dreams up total nonsense as regulations.

    So it is an effort by our group to be proactive and help the officials to avoid unwise regulatory measures.

    I believe in societies governed by law and I also believe in managed processes, I do not believe neither in wild-wild-west version of freedom nor in suffocating bureaucracy. 

    I hope the techies build enough momentum in UAV realm to have a say in major regulations. As it stands in USA, for example, even the LA police department cannot fly an tiny copter:


    In another video report the officers were saying that they have these tiny UAVs but cannot fly them since there is no permission from FAA!!!!!!

    IMHO this was resulted by the techies so engrossed (by greed) to make drones for military apps overseas that forgot the local markets. Therefore they did not lobby for licensing for local markets and here we are. 

    There are people who believe they have the right to own and discharge firearms without license, or they should be able to drive without license. I believe that unmanned vehicles should fly commercially with relatively thin regulation and licensing. 

    If we stay silent and just fly in the park sunday afternoons, then it is all lost as in the case of LA.


  • T3


    I see you fighting hard for freedom by adding regulations in relatively unregulated country.

    Working to make sure no single evil creator will claim property, but the freedom of use should be granted per case so a bureaucrat could claim the freedom of use, as you are against abuse of the individuals flying it without proper permits.

  • @Gary

    Thank you Gary, I will definitely look into sonde and gpsboomerang.

    I am against the military use of drones in general. I am against its military use by USA and by all other countries without exception. I am against the governments forbidden its flight for commercial purposes and I am against abuse of the individuals flying it without proper permits. 

    I am for the OPEN SOURCE development of UAV techs and abolishment of control of single source of capital or single source of authority or single source of R&D. 

    I am currently residing in Canada, and CANADA TRANSPORT has no regulations for UAVs used for commercial flight other than the usual safety guidelines. They are asking us to come forward and present ideas how to regulate the commercial flights. I am working with execs from a lobbying firm to make such presentations. 

    I am hoping to have several Ardu based UAVs and present to CANADA TRANSPORT to ask for commercial license. In spite of the fact that the Ardu family here is quite at 'early stages' but I think it has to be pushed into commercial markets so it picks up momentum. 

    I will try to MAKE FRIENDS so we can continue this discussion offline if you like to do so


  • Moderator

    Excellent Dara let them do it all for you, I am sure Chris A won't mind me pointing out that I posted these very flights a couple of weeks ago http://www.diydrones.com/profiles/blogs/this-seems-very-diyd I also worried it was a bit military. For me the amazing thing is that its only really the work of http://members.shaw.ca/sonde/ bought upto date. Its all a bit like this http://www.gpsboomerang.com/

    sUAS flight is really simple these days. The difference between doing it and doing it elegantly is like night and day.

    Unless the country you are in has a policy that allows UAS flight any business model is a bit scuppered for the minute.


  • @Gary Mortimer

    I have no problem with KB, I have resumes of many experts with actual accomplishments who can do the stuff I need and within reasonable budget.

    There is no shortage of these men.

    However I am looking for (and there is shortage in these):

    1. OPEN SOURCE platform for both hardware and software e.g. Ardu family here. 

    2. Community processes that will enable a new R&D platform which is NOT under the control any single individual or company or government. 

    3. Myriad of UAV flight technologies e.g. from small palm-size wing-foldable machines to large wings to parachuttes and so on, all using the same gps guided techs and share software as much as possible. 

    4. OPEN SOURCE aeronautical designs and simulations and wind-tunnel data. This requirement is key to reduce the cost of manufacturing of more advanced flight machines. If we fail to open source this part then we are just boys flying toys in the park.

    I can easily buy 'toys' from German or Chinese manufacturers, why should I spend hours and recalibrate the dingbat ESC again and again or worry about winterizing the naked copter with hazmats... Reason: there is (much more than) a glimmer of hope in this community raising the confidence for above requirements to be met.

    Back to the Chris Anderson's original post: The Disposable Microdrones are the way of future, it has the correct financial model and ROI (return on investment) in the organizations that use it will be justified. 

  • Moderator

    Sorry Krzys, different story...thats a B29, not the B17s and the P38s that were frozen in 200+ feet of ice.

  • T3

    The real problem with the project pictured is that it has been done at least mostly right, what is hard to accept by somebody that had a different idea in mind but had no time to count a few failures.

  • Moderator

    Er KB is one of the master experimenters here along with Dean and Crossfire.

    Its worth listening, at the minute the UAS wheel seems to be re invented about every six months. 

    I guess that will be accelerating.

    KB please send the banana sharpener.

    Five years ago you would have struggled to turn a rudder for less than $500 and holding any sort of altitude would have cost more than $6000.

    Dara KB has a platform that flies successfully around the world doing the task it was designed to do. He knows his stuff.

  • T3

    Evil Saddam had no capturable and demonstrable quantities of WMD therefore it was not possible to capture them in quantities. One of the most influential ppl on earth a few nations and their mighty armies didn't know that... and much to world's dismay, it didn't worked.

    'Can do' attitude has some extremely dangerous implications, of which wasting people's effort on naive or misalculated endeavours is just a small example. Many things are not worth trying, simply because having an option to make successful working project and unsucessful mostly working project, you should preferably do the former.

    "So stop calculating too much and start experimenting."

    Experimenting has been done, I have shared the result and asked for hard earned remuneration. Nobody paid, and you are trying to convince people to retry what besides me a lot of ppl in the business already know. This is a clear call for asset wasting and disregarding people with superior experience (what in this subject means simply ANY experience). We know an economy that worked like that, if the reality doesn't adheres to our beliefs about what we can achieve, there is a problem with reality, lets try until it works. It was called socialist economy. Much hated for its inefficiency causing not only damage to people's wealth but ultimately limiting most basic rights, due to dwindling resources.

    Real engineers work differently: there is a a small almost workign device, and you look how to change its size, fuel, shape, even principles to adress some possibly very remote problem.

    It never works like: 'I really see a cool ativity but I know somebody has banana sharpener (or a parachute). Let's try banana sharpener, will it improve the process'. Then you get a person trying to add banana sharpener to everything that moves, flies, digs. This is how modern western economy works, but this is not how inventions work.

    You have mentioned history of Glacier Girl, I mention history of B17 in Greenland. Can do?


    Kee Bird recovery. They didn't know it cannot be done like that.

    It is shame they tried as somebody else could do it right, without loss of human life.

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