Archive for Sunday, April 5, 2015

KU technology propelling hobby drones

KU mechanical engineering doctoral student Richard Bramlette, left, and associate professor of aerospace engineering Ron Barrett-Gonzalez prepare to fly a drone they developed inside an aerospace lab at Learned Hall. The patent-pending XQ139A drone, nicknamed “Robby” and painted like a Jayhawk, was designed to be flown for fun. A similar B model envisioned for police and military use is not yet ready to debut, they said.

KU mechanical engineering doctoral student Richard Bramlette, left, and associate professor of aerospace engineering Ron Barrett-Gonzalez prepare to fly a drone they developed inside an aerospace lab at Learned Hall. The patent-pending XQ139A drone, nicknamed “Robby” and painted like a Jayhawk, was designed to be flown for fun. A similar B model envisioned for police and military use is not yet ready to debut, they said.

April 5, 2015

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Unlike with commercial drones, the lack of collision-avoidance technology isn’t a deal-breaker on most drones that are just for fun.

Kansas University engineers are creating those, too, including one prototype flown publicly for the first time Friday, when the Journal-World visited the lab.

Mechanical engineering doctoral student Richard Bramlette helped develop the patent-pending XQ139A drone, nicknamed “Robby,” and painted it to look like a Jayhawk.

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Toy drones are great for people like him who love flying things but may not have the time, money or desire for a pilot’s license, Bramlette said.

“Flight, on its own, is just an amazing thrill,” Bramlette said. “Having something this small means that the average person can enjoy that.”

Robby is envisioned as a toy — maybe the type of thing alumni could buzz around Memorial Stadium while tailgating? — albeit a high-tech and powerful toy, associate professor of aerospace engineering Ron Barrett-Gonzalez said.

Robby is a convertible quadcopter, “next-level” compared with the highest-tech quadcopter drones sold for entertainment today, Barrett-Gonzalez said. Robby has four propellers plus a fuselage and can hover like a helicopter or tip sideways and rocket through the air like a plane.

Translating Robby from prototype to market would require a manufacturing plan that would keep costs around a few hundred dollars, affordable for hobby operators.

Robby’s cousin, the B model, is envisioned for military and police use but isn’t yet ready to debut, Barrett-Gonzalez said. That model is more likely to need — and its owners more likely able to afford — on-board collision-avoidance technology before hitting the skies.

To keep it from straying far from its operator, the A model would be equipped with a range limit for the transmitter, Barrett-Gonzalez said. And for now, he said, keeping toy drones in the operator’s line of sight is what the FAA requires to keep them in the air.

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