3D Robotics

3689696333?profile=originalFull disclosure: I was one of the judges. Too many great entries -- it was hard to pick a winner. From Popular Science:

Zelator, by Alexey Medvedev of Omsk, Russia, which won first place in the Airbus Main Prize.

The contest, which got underway this spring, ultimately netted 425 submissions.

The drones had a length list of requirements, including a weight below 55 pounds, the ability to take off and land vertically, and a pusher propeller.

There were nine winning designs (three places in each of three categories), and in total they were awarded over $100,000.

The Zelator entry can be viewed here. It features a sleek cargo compartment, a powerful engine for forward thrust in flight, and four smaller rotors to provide vertical lift.

The SkyPac drone designed by Finn Yonkers of North Kingstown, Rhode Island won the cargo category. SkyPac features a versatile tubular body that can fit many different loads for many missions, as designed, including dropping life preservers for sea rescue. Finally, Frédéric Le Sciellour of Pont De L’Arn, France won the community category with his slick Thunderbird design, a very horizontal craft with a hidden storage compartment in the main body.

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  • Developer

    If you look at the entry page for the winner, there are no elevator control surfaces. Sure, it is just a matter of adding them to the sitting v-tail in the drawing, but it illustrates how far from working solutions these entries are.


  • No elevators in fwd flight?

  • Developer

    You don't really have to look very close to see that they aren't functional models, only concepts. The winning entry for example, doesn't come with any elevators..

    And to preempt the obvious rebuttal. Using the quad part for elevation control in horizontal flight mode, would utterly kill efficiency.

  • Its is really difficult to belive that the winning entries would actually meet the contest requirements. They basically quote a wing span of 4m and with a MTOW of 25kg and batteries more than half this, its hard to see how they could meet structural weight requirements.

    The other concerning issue is the high aspect ratio wings with high wing loading. One of the winners stated in their blog that the cruise speed was close to the stall speed and relied on the quadrotors to "catch" the falling aircraft. Safe huh?

  • Indeed the rules pretty much forced you to make a convertible fixed wing / Quad or multicopter.

    But within those rules the entrants did definitely present some interesting concepts and some beautiful renderings.

    In the end, the main requirement was obviously to be a brilliant 3D CAD technician and it also helped to have some understanding of "drones" and how to use them.

    Some of the integrated system concepts and methods were especially interesting.

    Clearly the prize money is relatively insignificant for an even medium sized company, but the money and the exposure are certainly potentially valuable to the imaginative and capable individuals who came up with these designs.

    I suspect a lot of them were done by single individuals completely unrelated to their jobs, although possibkley not to the CAD systems they use at their regular work.

    Best regards,


  • Moderator

    Thanks John. So if I can simplify it even further, you're saying it's basically a "Well, I wasn't going to do anything with it anyways..." sort of viewpoint? 

    That was my assumption. I just wasn't sure if there was some hidden advantages/opportunities for the participants that I wasn't aware of. 

  • Developer

    From what I can gather, most of the contestants are industrial design types doing this 'on the side'. The entries are just rough 3d renders of ideas, not real working solutions with countless hours of functional engineering, prototype testing etc. Hence, the eye candy factor I mentioned earlier. So there is not much IP of value to speak of.

  • Moderator

    As someone wholly ignorant to the details(?) of business at this level, I'd like to hear more about what @JB touched on regarding the IP rules. 

    I think most people feel like the prize money is a minuscule amount to release all the IP, but it HAS to make sense somewhere in the equation for this many companies to participate, right? 

    Can someone explain the benefits beyond the prize money to those of us(me) that can't make sense of the appeal to participants?

  • I like the one with ducted fans, the thunderbird. I wonder if he heard of the coanda effect or vortex ring state. Anyway, I didn't enter so I will just be a cynical critic! :)

  • Agreed John. It's easier to model in CAD then it is to build in reality. The tail reminds me of the LH10.

    I'm wondering why there weren't any asymmetrical configs. "Quad plus planes" have been around for a few years now. 

    For me the main two reasons I didn't bother were because I don't believe in "drone deliveries" as a solution at all, apart from for emergencies, and secondly the competition IP rules.

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