Distributed Flight Array


Though it is in the beginning stages of development, the Distributed Flight Array is already looking very interesting. Each unit can scuttle across the ground using the down force from its prop, but when 4 or more join forces, they can take off and fly. The documentation shows that they should be smart enough to fly in random configurations, though in the video we only see the standard 4 prop layout. This is being worked on by the same people who produced the balancing cube.

[via BoingBoing]

17 thoughts on “Distributed Flight Array

  1. Exactly why is the sum of lifts greater when they are connected? Or perhaps it isn’t but they lack control unless there is at least four of them, so they decide to just hover low?

  2. Adds a whole new element to the swarm concept. It will be interesting to see the commercial, military, and research applications this provides. NASA is working on something similar for their solar plane project. Don’t know if they’ve tried out the mid air docking bit just yet.

  3. @salec I think its probably a matter of control/stability. With only one unit, the torque reaction of the prop would cause uncontrollable spinning. Two units would solve that problem, but it would only have direction control of the X and Z axis. Three units would theoretically work, but four would make the math simpler.

  4. @crgwbr

    The torque component is negated out on coaxial helicopters all the time by using counter rotating blades. This also allows for rotation by simply slowing down one of the props to allow the torque to become a non-zero value. That still doesn’t solve lateral movement control along the X-Y axis though.

  5. This seems pretty preliminary to me. The rolling-docking version is not at all like the flying version (no prop and the circuit boards are located over the duct) and the flying version seems to be uncontrolled and only capable of seeking the ceiling.

    I look forward to a controlled version that can dock-undock and demonstrate controlled purpose.

  6. So it has a bunch of problems, but they all seem like things a bunch of money could fix. I’m thinking defense.

    I don’t know, but right away I thought this could have some big military purposes. It could be a fast way to distribute ad-hoc network nodes. Or, a single unit initially with multiple capabilities could later separate and then more efficiently allocate its assets… Sortof a distributable multi-role aircraft.

    I don’t know, maybe I’ve just watched too much sci-fi.

  7. Similar to maroc, I want to see swarms of these working together, except I don’t think they need to connect to each other (except wirelessly). It would be cool if this became a cheap device that could be bought in quantity, attached all over some heavy thing–wherever a connection could be made, and all told to carry it somewhere. The right software could even compensate for the inevitable differences in lifting strength caused by mass-production and differing battery charge levels.

    Of course, each unit would probably have to be able to at least fly vertically on its own, perhaps with the dual, counter-rotating blades that aonomus mentioned.

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