Personal drones to soon be a reality

Personal drones, which are as small as the size of a coin and can fly for several kilometers, could soon become a reality.

A group from Harvard have presented their design for a millimetre-sized drone – microbot - that can just take off from the tip of your finger and can even land like a bee on a flower, thereby taking the drone technology to the next level and for possible use to explore extremely cramped and tight spaces.

The size of drones have been getting smaller and smaller. It started off as a military product, and then was used to deliver pizzas.


The UAE itself has adopted the drone programme for a variety of government services, including infrastructure monitoring and geographic surveys and delivery of documents.

“We want to reach people before they reach us,”
said His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, when he attended drone tests.

Today it’s not just the military or the governments that can own one such drone. Advanced technology and new startups are making the product available to even ordinary citizens.

Earlier this month Paris-based Parrot unveiled the BeBop drone, the smartphone controlled drone that can navigate upto 2kms.

Added features include a built in 14MP camera with a 180 degree fish eye lens and capable of full HD video recording, image stabilisation.

With GPS enabled it can return back to its home without getting lost.

The drone can fly up to 600 metres and with an extender range pack fly up to two kms away, provided it is compliant with the local regulator. The onboard computer features a Parrot P7 dual-core CPU, quad-core GPU and 8 GB of flash memory.

You can navigate the drone using the Skycontroller and integrate to FPV (First person View) glasses such as the virtual reality headset Oculus Rift.

You then have the Hex or Flexbot - another smartphone controlled nanocopter with a camera attached and compatible with FPV glasses.

The device can be controlled using the gravity sensors in a mobile device thereby imitating the movement of the smartphone or a tablet in the air.

Those with 3D printers can even customize the body to how you want it to look like. “We provide many 3D printed shells. All shells are directly mounted on top of the circuit board, and no soldering is required. If you are a designer, you can design your own shells and mount them as well,” the developers point out.

The project raised $563,721 of the $10,000 goal on Kickstarter. Those interested can preorder a more advanced Aerial Photographer Set for $159.

Techject’s Dragonfly
is another example of a lightweight robotic insect that collects and relays information.

Georgia Tech, armed with a million dollar grant from the US Air Force have been researching on the project with inputs from researchers, PhDs, and professors from multiple universities across the world.

The Dragonfly which can be controlled from your mobile phone can do aerial photography, spy on people or even used for surveillance. In an effort to camouflage and enable customization  the developers have released the SDK to enable a user to choose their own colors.

The Hummingbird Drone project by the California based AeroVironment was one of the pioneer and funded by the US military. AeroVironment developed the Nano Air Vehicle (NAV) under a DARPA sponsored research contract to develop a new class of air vehicle systems capable of indoor and outdoor operation.

The project achieved the capabilities where the drone with its with bird-shaped body and bird-shaped wings could speed of 11 miles per hour, operate indoor and outdoor with greater stability. It can even withstand and tolerate a two-meter per second (five miles per hour) wind gust from the side, without drifting and fly at a speed of 11 miles per hour.

It was even named as one of the "50 Best Inventions of 2011" by TIME Magazine.

Most of these projects will hit the retail stores by the end of the year if not early 2015.

While those who pledged for the Flexbot project on Kickstarter have already received their shipping, those who missed can still preorder one online.

At a starting price of $49 for a Flexbot carrier set (add an additional $10 for domestic shipping in the US and more in case of international deliveries) the pricing is quite attractive.

The pricing for the Parrot Bebop is still not revealed but expect it to be available by the year-end.


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