Quadcopter Plane Transformer Is Awesome

Is it a quadcopter? A plane?  No, it’s both! [Daniel Lubrich] is at it again with a vertical take off and landing transformer he calls the SkyProwler.

The SkyProwler uses a switch blade type mechanism to move from quadcopter mode to plane mode. The wings can be detached to make it a normal quad that has all the typical bells and whistles. It can follow you around with GPS, fly autonomously via way points, and has this cool gimbal mechanism that keeps the GoPro stable as the drone pitches in flight, allowing for a better video experience.

[Dan’s] ultimate goal is a full size passenger model called the SkyCruiser, which uses the same switchblade transformation mechanism as his much smaller SkyProwler. Be sure to check out the video below if you haven’t already, and let us know of any quadcopter / plane hybrids of your own.

Correction: We previously associated [Daniel Lubrich] with the ATMOS program. This was in error and has been removed from the article. The ATMOS UAV is a separate project which we previously covered.

34 thoughts on “Quadcopter Plane Transformer Is Awesome

    1. Not necessarily. A tilt rotor vehicle isn’t really the best of the worlds of helicopter and airplane, it’s rather more the worst of both worlds. It is a complete compromise between the two concepts making if less effective in most things both are quite good at, albeit with a couple of interesting combinations.
      This design can not really be accused of subtlety in execution, but seeing as the only compromise here is weight, which seems not to be to much of an issue, I believe this hybrid is actually better than a complicated tilt rotor design that would beat this at nothing seeing as the tilt rotor concept itself really compromises on load capacity.
      The rest of the device is the “best” practice of a quad and the “best” practice of a model plane.

      1. For full scale aircraft that would be true to the point that it would matter. Quad rotor of this size on the other hand use propellers that are also used for conventional horizontal flight. The mechanism for rotating the rotors 90 degrees would be far less complicated and robust than a retraction mechanism for the entire arm.

        1. I don’t think that this retraction mechanism is so complicated. I think they are mechanically linked to 1 servo and has two modes, in and out. For a twin engine tilt rotor you would need precise control over the tilt, surely making it non trivial in complexity.

    2. Nope. A tailsitter would be much easier to build. Sure, it’s something different as it’s more of a fixed wing plane with VTOL and hovering capability rather than a proper quad, but for many uses that’s more than enough

  1. aside from the text “speed” and guitar that seemed like the movie “hotrod”, this is the start to the companion-bot Ive always dreamed of.

    You talk to it, it follows you, it keeps you safe by keeping you under video surviellance at all times. This will lead to (functionally) the replacement of dogs for humans.

    nothing short of impressive.

    1. Cheating? By who’s rules? And how do you define efficiency?

      If all you’re concerned about is how much energy is used, you’d be better off using no rotors. But then flight would be more challenging. Fours rotors offer a great balance between complexity, energy use, and stability.

      And frankly, I doubt you can find a single example of a two rotor aircraft that approaches the stability of a similarly sized quadrotor.

      1. redesign and add 2 rotors making it a tricopter have the propeller be able to pivot and the two forward rotors swing out like they do saving the power use of 1 motor and the weight of the motor + prop, tricopters can be very stable

        1. No arguments here – tricopters can be very stable. But Gravis was implying that a two rotor aircraft was more efficient/better/not cheating.

          That said, tri-copters aren’t as efficient as a quad copter. There’s a sweet spot between energy use, weight, and disk loading – quad rotors hit that sweet spot. That’s not the say there’s no value in a tricopter. They’re a lot more maneuverable and can be a blast to fly.

    1. About minus 3 years.

      DARPA recently had a tank thing where they took input from people like this. It’s not the first time this has happened, and in my eyes it’s a good idea to crowdsource ingenuity like this.

  2. Impressive! For the passenger model, though, I think there needs to be another way of storing the quad props because, well, the passengers will be in the fuselage, won’t they? May be rotate them horizontally and use them for forward thrust like the Osprey?

      1. It’s not lazy- it’s simple. Robust. It’s a design trade-off. It’s far simpler structurally to make the motors scissor in and out of the fuselage than it is to tilt them all. In fact I bet the whole thing overall weighs less, since it’s so much simpler. To me it’s like saying that the starter in your car is a “lazy” design because it is only needed once per cycle. Having push started a truck I could not afford to fix when I was a kid, for 6 months, I disagree :)

  3. Interesting design, but a team in Germany got so far as to develop multirotor tech up to human transportation sizes, they most certainly didn’t do it with a quad design, rather 18 whole rotors!
    Something to do with how they dont develop individual brushless motors big enough, or they’re nowhere near as efficient of something.
    Brushless motor tech is awesome but a long way away from lifting people and goods practically yet.
    For model flight though, their hybrid design is brilliant!

  4. Good first start but model airplanes, particularly the vastly overpowered electrics can be made fly in nearly any configuration (batteries plus motors plus pizza box equals airplane (really: http://youtu.be/pECe9Bs8dfc).

    In a “real” airplane a quiet motor (much less four) is dead weight and there’s never much of that allowed, hence the Harrier’s wild ducting/nozzle arrangement. There’s no reason that the existing motors (though not necessarily four of them) can’t rotate into thrust mode with allowance for transitions, a la the V-22 osprey (this has been attempted with a modded Bixler Skysurfer: http://youtu.be/knJt-D9-KNw).

    In any event, I think the real market for this, if any, will be for a UAV scale device.

  5. Since the beginning of model aircraft, they don’t scale. The power to weight ratio works in a model, but not full scale. Be interesting to see if they can find a power plant that doesn’t weigh a ton that can generate enough lift to get a full scale version airborne.

    1. I had the same Idea. I would think it would be better if the rear set were left to auto-gyro. The variable transmissions already exists to allow auto-gyros VTOL capabilities but you might have to modify them for the weight constraints in quad-copters. Different weighted rotor pairs complicate the control software so it might cut down on aerobatics.

  6. Why do some guys here keep saying that the 4 rotors are useless? Just because it’s not being used for the time being does not make it useless. So in a sense, what does the spare tire in your car carried around for when it’s not even attached to something? It’s dead weight, but you want it there for the just-in-case. I can see an application with this mid-air switchable mode in dog-fighting where you can transform mid-flight to out maneuver your enemy.

    1. You can’t out maneuver an air-air missile. The G’s you’d be pulling going from cruising (or better) speed to complicated aerobatics would rip the rotors clean off. There’s a reason the Sukhoi fighters only have good low speed maneuverability.and it’s not all due to human constraints.

  7. An Osprey type of wing that tilts the whole wing + 2 motors with foldable props, and a third motorpod in front that is also tiltable for VTOL balance and as the only in flight propulsion.

    Then the two wingmotors can fold in the propeller when forvard thrust is enogh from the frontal engine, giving less drag.

    A tri rotor should be as stable as a quad, but if a Quad is preferred, an osprey type of wing with two motors on a plane with a frontal enginepod that swings up and a rear pusher that swings down would be possible and give a smooth transition from vertical to forvard flight.

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