An unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) combining aircraft and multicopter technology could rival Amazon and Google’s delivery drone, say its designers. Jim Drury reports.
Belgian drone mixes plane and quadcopter technology
Its creators say VertiKUL2 could one day rival delivery drones like Amazon Prime Air and Google’s Project Wing.
University of Leuven researchers say it combines a quadcopter’s vertical take-off and landing ability with conventional aircraft’s speed and capacity for longer flight.
SOUNDBITE (English) BART THEYS, RESEARCHER AT UNIVERSITY OF LEUVEN, SAYING:
“When we take off it flies like a multicopter and all the lift is generated by the four propellers. After take-off we make a transition and we tilt the whole vehicle 45 degrees and after this the wings provide a lot of lift and the propellers do not consume so much energy anymore. When we want to land we just make a transition back to hover and all the lift is back provided by the propellers and we can land vertically on a very small spot.”
The team’s first model performed well in field tests, but struggled in windy conditions.
VertiKUL2’s smaller wings make it more wind tolerant.
SOUNDBITE (English) STIJN DEBECKER, RESEARCHER AT UNIVERSITY OF LEUVEN (PRON: LERVUN), SAYING:
“We are now ready to fly fully autonomously with VertiKUL. It’s also possible to land with very precise position of ten centimetres. We use very accurate real-time kinematic GPS for that and in the next stage we want to automatically exchange batteries and a package out of our drone.”
With an automatic flight controller tilting the craft forward, so its top becomes its nose, the drone can travel for 30 kilometres with a one kilogram cargo payload.
With more funding, its creators say it won’t be long before VertiKUL2 takes its place in the delivery drones’ very own Battle of the Skies.