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THE World of Drones                                                                                                   The Largest Drone


                                                                                                                             The largest drone in the world is one developed by China, the Feihong-98
                                                                                                                             (FH-98). The FH-98 has a maximum take off weight of 5.25 tonnes, a
                                                                                                                             maximum capacity of 1.5 tonnes and 15 cubic metres, a flight height of
                                                                                                                             4,500 metres, a cruising speed of 180 kilometres per hour, and a maximum
        Robotic Insect Drones                                                                                                range of 1,200 kms.
        Inspired by the flight behaviour of insects and studying it                                                          First Untethered Underwater Drone
        in detail has resulted in a collaborative effort of biologists                                                       The iBubble underwater drone is the first hands-free underwater drone of
        in the Netherlands to develop DelFly Nimble, a flying                                                                its kind. The diving drone is designed to follow you while you are
        drone that mimics how insects fly.                                                                                   underwater, capturing amazing and high-quality footage without any
        Professor Florian Muijres’ team of researchers from TU                                                               operation on your part. iBubble claim to having made the first intelligent,
        Delft Micro Air Vehicle Laboratory (MAVLab) and the                                                                  user-friendly and completely autonomous diving drone. It gives you
        experimental Zoology Group, Wageningen University are                                                                unprecedented possibilities to create underwater movies with sports
        studying flying insects’ complex wing motion patterns                                                                cameras like the popular GoPro. The iBubble is the first underwater drone
        and aerodynamics. By analysing how the drone flies,   hope to learn more about the sensory and neuro-motor           developed specifically for scuba divers. About the size of a lifeguard’s
        researchers hope that the flying robot could one day   systems of insects in the development of DelFly Nimble.       flotation device, the iBubble will quite literally follow you around like a dog
        help them understand better how insects are able to pull   “We pretty well understand the manoeuvre dynamics         on your dive, recording not just the dive site, but also you and your buddies
        off fast, agile manoeuvres.                         that these animals make when they avoid, for example,            as well. The operator wears a bracelet so the iBubble knows who to follow.
        DelFly Nimble could well pave the way for radically   danger, but we don’t know what’s going on in the head          You can also use the bracelet to call the drone to you if you want to use it
        different drones. DelFly’s designer Matej Karasek, a   of the animal, in the neural control system. And using        as a camera, or if you need to surface. The drone can move up to 80 feet
        researcher at Delft University of Technology revealed the   this robot, we can actually test that,” says Muijres.    (25m) away from divers.
        physical attributes and capacity of his drone saying that   Professor Guido de Croon the scientific lead at the Micro   Fastest Drone
        his creation weighs merely 29 grams has a 33        Air Vehicle Laboratory has been developing insect-
        centimetre wingspan and can fly for about five minutes.   inspired drones for over a decade now. He believes         While regular drones are capable of reaching speeds of around 40 mph,
        Its two pairs of wings operate independently beating 17   these tiny insect-like drones have the potential for novel   the Drone Racing League’s DRL RacerX last year set a new drone speed
        times per-second and the drone has the capacity to carry  applications. “It’s so lightweight and safe that it would   record of 163.5 mph. To put that in context, it’s around one-fifth the speed
        an additional payload of up to four grams – which could   be really good to have this flying in an environment       of sound. Impressively, DRL RacerX actually managed a top speed of 179.6
        be a camera system or additional sensors.           even around people or above people,” says De Croon.              mph, but due to the averaging process that determines how the Guinness
                                                                                                                             World Record is recorded, this did not count as the final score.
        “There are two tiny motors and each of them operates   “So, for example, we think of applications like in
        one wing pair,” he says, “so, I can flap the right-wing   greenhouses, where it can look at the plants and see if    Longest Flight Time
        pair and left-wing pair independently. Flapping these   it needs more water or, for example, some minerals or        While a typical drone has a flight time of up to 20 minutes, cutting-edge
        wings together provides the lift force so that the robot   something, but it can also fly in warehouses to keep      British companies BAE Systems and Prismatic are developing an ultralight,
        can fly.”                                           track of the stock.”                                             high-altitude drone which could achieve flight times of anywhere up to 12
        Intended to mimic the complex patterns of flying insects,   Researchers hope that in the long term their work could   months. Called PHASA-35, it’s a drone with a wingspan of 35 meters that
        DelFly has a characteristic flapping wing motion and can   also lead to the development of lightweight, power-       uses a combination of long-life battery technology and ultra-lightweight
        perform manoeuvres like 360-degree flips, loops and   efficient flying robots which might even be scalable to        solar cells. The craft has been in development for the past two years, and a
        barrel rolls.                                       insect size. This could result in reduction of human effort      quarter-scale model took to the skies in 2017 for a test flight.
        Biologists at the Netherlands’ Wageningen University   in tasks like stock checking and monitoring due to the        The team behind it is now hoping the real thing will be ready for test flights
                                                            enhanced capability of insect drones.                            of two production prototypes sometime in the second half of 2019.

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