Currently, drones can't travel very long distances as they are only able to hover but now students at the Singaporean university have created a drone that can activate fixed wings, allowing it to benefit from the vertical take offs of a drone and longer flight time like an aircraft.
Lead author Jun En Low and Professor Shaohui Foong told IEEE Spectrum: "[It can be used for] anything that requires both long range and an agile hover, and because of its inherent potential to scale, it can be made smaller than other hybrid platforms, which will unlock many possibilities where current hybrid UAVs are too big or bulky to operate! These include agriculture, surveillance, and package delivery, all of which are hot topics in drone development as of the moment.
"We see the THOR as more of an innovation and evolution of the monocopter concept. In the monocopter, we have a terrific system when it comes to hovering, only that its payload has to constantly rotate and more critically, it doesn't have range. The THOR overcomes this by fusing the monocopter concept to a fixed wing craft (or vice versa). There are also lots of interesting dynamics involved in analyzing and optimizing such a unique platform."
The drone has been tested for conversion between hovering and flying and vice versa with much success.
Explaining their experiments, they added: "We brought the craft up to an altitude of about 2 meters in either mode and attempted a transition, producing some interesting results. In the transition between C-MOD to H-MOD, it was found that by putting the C-MOD into a climb, the craft is able to reliably maintain altitude while switching its wings into its H-MOD configuration. We suspect that, given strong enough motors, the craft operates akin to a bi-copter during the transition step after-which the rotating wings take over as the primary source of lift.
"In transition from H-MOD to C-MOD, the initiation of an upwards facing C-MOD was once again useful in maintaining craft altitude during transition. In fact, the motors were strong enough to almost instantaneously break the craft out of H-MOD rotation and push the craft into translational flight."