I've been looking at micro drones lately and I'm now sure it is likely that the future of the drone is the tiny drone much like this mechanical dragonfly.

With the use of very tiny piezoelectric actuators that draw very little current I believe it is now possible to create these very tiny flying drones. 

This is a tiny fiber optic camera. One day soon I believe there will be chip sized drones! Likely based on the dragonfly using the tiny battery cells already available. The tiny drone will be based on carrying it's battery payload.

I just thought it might be interesting to see how tiny drones might really get in the near future. I'm not talking about 50 years into the future, I'm talking 5 maybe 10 years ahead!

So before you swat that next bug you might want to check it out first! LOL soon it could be a tiny drone and not really a bug!

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3D Robotics
Comment by Chris Anderson on September 28, 2015 at 3:00pm

Given the failure of the Robot Dragonfly to arrive, despite three years of development and more than $1 million of Indiegogo funding, my lesson is that tiny mechanical things like this are really, really hard. 

Comment by Monroe King on September 28, 2015 at 3:14pm

Yeah you are right Chris but I'm willing to believe the piezoelectric actuator is making strides to come up to this level very soon. There is a great deal of potential in that direction. Perhaps I am optimistic but I do believe piezoelectrics are coming to the drone soon!  

Comment by Gary McCray on September 28, 2015 at 6:11pm

Comment by Gary McCray 9 seconds agoDelete Comment

Hi Monroe and Chris, I totally agree with both of you.

Tiny is totally important, and it is really, really hard.

Economic incentive always plays to tiny for large scale production though, look at your cell phones and tablets, if you can sell enough of them the cost to miniaturize it is readily absorbed.

There has been a recent breakthrough in electrically distorted shape metals that may have a bearing though, previously possible MTBF cycle times of a few thousand may now possibly be in the multi-millions.

Tiny rotors have a big advantage as far as power source and conversion, but I also believe that little movable winged things can and will be made to work.

I have recently seen some very high performance Nano sized tiny FPV quadcopters using tiny custom frames which actually fly brilliantly and have over five minute flight times.

Unfortunately they still use those tiny DC motors because there aren't small enough suitable brushless ones yet.

At this size, to be practical, the motor is the critical element, it has to be brushless and it needs properly engineered exotic bearings specifically made for a tiny quadcopter.

I think we will get dragonfly sized quadcopters well before we get actual - dragonflys, but eventually that will happen to.

I might add I also just saw at a nearby hobby shop the highest performance, quietest nano quadcopter I have ever seen.

It has actual engineered props and surrounding ducts.

It puts out less than a quarter the noise of a normal nano, and is very high performance, Oliver bought it at a local hobby shop in Santa Rosa BNF for $50.00

The Blade Inductrix:

http://www.bladehelis.com/Inductrix/

http://www.amainhobbies.com/rc-drones/blade-inductrix-bnf-ultra-mic...

The FPV racer guys are driving these things and they are already embracing nano indoor flying and racing.

It is very much like a swarm of dragonflys.

The future is still very interesting.

Best,

Gary 


Moderator
Comment by MarioSpeedwagon on September 28, 2015 at 6:18pm
If it can't handle a payload approximately/exactly the size and weight of a meatlover's calzone, I don't see the point.

Moderator
Comment by MarioSpeedwagon on September 28, 2015 at 6:19pm
I guess it would also have to be able to handle $8.99 in pennies and nickels on the return flight. Not sure which is heavier.
Comment by Gary McCray on September 28, 2015 at 7:02pm

Hi Mario,

I think the point of these tiny drones is not going to be able to handle a heavy payload but to tailor a tiny payload just for them.

The fact is the biggest actual legitimate use for quadcopters is arguably to be able to take photos and video and possibly to provide a first person perspective while doing so.

For video, 1080P at 30 or 60fps is probably acceptable for most uses and for photos, higher is better.

In reality there are already tiny 1080P Cameras, chip and lens type and the only other thing you need is a onboard recording device like a microSD card slot.

Certainly stabilization is important, and brushless gimbals are way too big for these things.

But great strides are being made in computed optical digital stabilization using an over sized (for 1080P) sensor. Yaw and pitch already seem to be OK as seen in several cameras like Sony AS100V and Parrot Bebop, but roll is still a bit of a problem which probably needs a dedicated GPU to solve.

The bottom line is the entire built in camera could be tiny and probably weigh only 20 or 30 grams.

And of course it could be used for simultaneous FPV.

Possibly the over sized chip would suffice for still photos as well.

There are lots of applications where a 5 to 8 minute flight time would be acceptable, and the ability to have one of these and its transmitter in a small brief case would be very useful.

Possibly perfect for real estate agents, one of the prospective main uses and useful even indoors.

People have complained legitimately that some of the small quads perform badly outdoors in gusts.

And that can be true, but is not necessary.

It is primarily a result of high side flat plate area versus mass.

If you make the quadcopter very thin in front and side profile and better still an aerodynamic shape and give it a relatively high mass for it's size, they handle winds as well as their bigger cousins.

The Blade 200QX is an excellent example of this.

Best regards,

Gary

Comment by Monroe King on September 28, 2015 at 7:04pm

Commercial drones are a totally different deal with it's own future. Which is very convoluted and cloudy at the moment. Personal drones definitely have a future and IMO it's the tiny drone. Micro, Nano, ect... I'd just like to see the DIY community get a jump on things small :)

The Micro Drone will be king of personal cameras and such. Which is the majority of everyone else.


Moderator
Comment by MarioSpeedwagon on September 28, 2015 at 7:13pm
Haha, Sorry Gary. I do see the appeal, I just didn't have anything to contribute aside from an interest in calzones. Now that the hunger issue is solved...

How about a focus on sensors other than optical? I feel like you could make more arguments in favor of larger drones for imaging, but uses involving gas detecting could benefit from a platform that doesn't have heavy prop wash. Not as much of an issue with payload weight, either.
Comment by Gary McCray on September 28, 2015 at 7:23pm

Hi Monroe, I agree, commercial use is really a secondary issue for these, but they would certainly fill the majority of needs/desires for non-commercial use as well.

And Mario, +1, the perfect thing to toss a bunch of in a disaster area and set them off looking for assorted stuff or even signs of life, FLIR cameras at the chip level are tiny too.

Probably not ideal for large crop AG management, but that is another ball game.

Best,

Gary

Comment by Monroe King on September 28, 2015 at 10:29pm

Well I believe right now with enough funding I could develop a piezoelectric dragonfly if I just didn't have so many other projects going. I'm pretty determined to get this technology into space which is a very taxing endeavor. But I do want to put the spark into the hands of our future, all the fine young people here at DIY Drones.

I believe I'm not the only one that could in fact I know there is someone out there right now thinking about it. I'm just trying to push that person forward! Because I believe they will do it. If you are that person all I can say is GO FOR IT! Because it's coming and you might be the one that does it.

I think that would be very cool :)   

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