Researchers at Oakland University have developed a new type of multi-rotor drone, ‘Loon Copter,’ that is capable of traditional aerial flight, on-water surface operation and sub aquatic diving.
The Loon flies in the same fashion as any other quadcopter, and initially floats when it comes to rest on the water. It can then simply sit in one spot or it can use its props to push itself along the surface. To dive down into water it pumps water into its buoyancy chamber, causing a sinking effect.
Instead of submerging straight down, the Loon tips to one side as it sinks. It then re-engages its props, allowing them to pull it top-first through the water. While it’s underwater, it can turn to either side, dive or ascend using its water ballast system and record video or gather data.
Once it’s time to get airborne again, it just pumps out its buoyancy chamber, causing it to float back to the surface and swing into position.
“We are looking into acoustic modems, repeater buoys, and some other techniques that could allow streaming of live video for operator feedback as well as data and control commands,” said lead scientist Dr. Osamah Rawashdeh. “For open-water applications, we can have the vehicle dive at predefined GPS points to various depths autonomously and follow some pre-programmed movement patters underwater to collect data or video footage.”
According to Rawashdeh, possible applications include search-and-rescue operations, bridge foundation inspections, underwater pipeline inspections, tracking of oil spills at different depths, and marine life studies.
It has even been suggested that the Loon could spot sharks from the air, then land in the water and use a deterrent system to chase them away from nearby swimmers.
“The Loon Copter can loiter on the surface of the water without energy usage,” said Rawashdeh. “It can also change and control depth with little power (no propeller use). Not having to use propellers to change depth or resurface also has an advantage when obstacles (e.g.: structures or vegetation) are close to the drone. We can resurface without hitting any obstacles.”
Content by Gizmag, image and video credits to Oakland University/Drones for Good