Drones are incredibly useful machines in the air, but keeping them up and flying can be tricky, especially in crowded, windy or emergency situations, and speed is an important factor,media The Verge reported. But a team of researchers from the California Institute of Technology and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory came up with an interesting solution: launching drones from cannons.
The engineer’s work is called SQUID (Thin Rapid Investigation Drone). The drone is less than a foot (27 cm) long, weighs 18 ounces (530 grams) and has four spring-loaded rotor arms that can get stuck in place less than 0.1 seconds after the drone is launched.
To get squid up, the researchers launched it from an improved pneumatic baseball pitcher, giving it an initial speed of about 35 miles per hour. The team noted in the research paper that squid’s rotors began operating about 200 milliseconds after launch and that the quadcopter “stabilized and circled” in less than a second.
Another major advantage of SQUID is flexibility. Ballistic launch means squid can be fired from a moving object, as researchers can demonstrate by firing from the back of a pickup truck at 50 miles per hour.
This launch scheme has a variety of useful applications. For example, emergency personnel and military units can launch drones to monitor the area without stopping. Ballistic drones may also be good for space exploration. “The rotor ingress can greatly expand the range of data collected by the rover and allow access to sites that the rover cannot pass through,” the researchers wrote. “
As the report in IEEE Spectrum points out, this is not the first drone ever to be launched with a ballistic launch. But earlier examples, such as Raytheon’s LOCUST device, used fixed-wing rather than multi-rotor designs that offered greater range and stability, but were less maneuverable and difficult to fly.
However, SQUID designers say they are now exploring larger prototypes and “specific mission versions for Mars and Titan.”