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'Flying saucer' drone can fly twice as long as regular models

Flybotix's drone is designed for tricky inspections and search and rescue work.

The biggest problem with drones is their lack of endurance, but Swiss researchers have developed a new model that helps reduce that problem. Eschewing the regular four blade design, EPFL startup Flybotix's drone has just two propellers, letting it fly twice as long as regular models. It's just as easy to pilot as a standard UAV, but the increased longevity and small size makes it ideal for inspecting dangerous areas or doing search and rescue in a collapsed building, for instance.

The Flybotix drone has a 30 cm (12 inches) wide cowl, with two props stacked one on top of the other, turning in opposite directions. That considerably reduces drag while increasing efficiency compared to four-blade designs. The problem, though, is that such craft tend to be unstable and difficult to handle.

That's where the digital control systems come in. The team developed a simple, algorithm-powered stabilization mechanism that calculates how much to offset the rotation and tilt of each prop for maneuvering or straight flight. That makes it as easy to pilot as any other drone using conventional joystick controls.

With a relatively small size and foam coating that can absorb mild collisions, the drone is ideal for inspecting dangerous, hard to reach areas, said research lead Samir Bouabdallah. "This technology can also be used in other applications like public safety, law enforcement and [any] applications where miniaturization of drones is necessary," he added.

Flybotix long-endurance dual-prop drone