A team of Chinese researchers has unveiled a prototype quadcopter drone capable of flying and swimming.
The TJ-FlyingFish, the autonomous drone, has four two-stage motors designed to operate in either aerial or underwater environments.
Developed by scientists representing the Unmanned Systems Research Group at the University of Hong Kong and China’s Intelligent Autonomous Systems Research Institute, the TJ-FlyingFish differs from other ‘aquadrones’ as it was purpose-built to function in both mediums.
Previous examples were essentially air-going drones fitted with equipment that would facilitate underwater operation.
When in air mode, all four of the drone’s motors point skyward, the propellers rotating at maximum speed.
The TJ-FlyingFish dives by swivelling all four of its motors 180 degrees, dragging the drone’s body underwater. Once submerged, the drone re-orientates its motors, allowing it to manoeuvre with relative ease.
The TJ-FlyingFish prototype weighs 1.63 kilograms and has a reported battery life of six minutes when airborne, according to the online science publication, New Atlas.
It can dive to a depth of three metres and can travel at speeds of two metres per second for 40 minutes when submerged.
The team’s creation has a built-in GPS system, a depthmeter, a Doppler velocity log that uses acoustic frequencies to measure the speed of the drone and an inertial measurement device.
These all mean the drone can operate with almost no human intervention, according to Chinese University of Hong Kong professor, Ben Chen.
Practical applications for the aquadrone range from conservation, remote-sensing, delivering supplies to isolated and hard-to-reach areas and search and rescue operations.
After the devastating February earthquake that rocked Turkey and Syria, drone companies like Garuda Aerospace deployed their drones alongside rescue teams where they were put to work conducting surveillance on heavily impacted regions and delivering payloads of food and medicine to trapped victims.
Drone technology is evolving at a rapid pace and its market size is expanding at a similarly breakneck speed.
The global market for commercial drones in 2022 was roughly $30.6 billion and is projected to reach $55.8 billion dollars by 2026, according to a DroneII report.
Professor Chen and his colleagues will present their creation in London at the Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers International Conference on Robotics and Automation when it is held in May later this year.