When it comes to drones, there are pretty much two types that exist in the market. One of those types have been designed to be like a plane where it glides in the air, while the other sports a quadcopter design where it can hover thanks to the design of its rotors. Both have their uses, but what if you could switch between gliding and hovering?
That’s exactly what researchers at MIT have been trying to do when they created a drone that can switch between gliding and hovering. According to MIT CSAIL grad student Jie Xu, “Our method allows non-experts to design a model, wait a few hours to compute its controller, and walk away with a customized, ready-to-fly drone. The hope is that a platform like this could make more these more versatile ‘hybrid drones’ much more accessible to everyone.”
Now, the concept of hybrid drones that can switch between gliding and hovering aren’t new, but some of the challenges faced with the current design is that it requires separate controllers for different modes. This is something that the team at MIT have overcome by using neural networks to automatically compute a controller.
That being said, before we get too excited at seeing such drones hit the market, there is the question of the aerodynamics of such a design, plus there is also the issue of maneuverability where these designs usually means that the drones aren’t capable of making sharp turns, but it’s still an interesting approach nonetheless.