There is only so much that we can do by updating the control algorithms for existing vehicles. To truly achieve break-through performance, or be able to operate in the most challenging environments, requires that we investigate the design of the vehicles in conjunction with their control.
One novel design includes the use of an added flywheel on a multicopter (conceptually somewhat like a dual-spin spacecraft). This endows the vehicle with a large source of angular momentum, allowing it to maintain its thrust direction better than a comparable standard multicopter.
Another challenge for existing systems is operating in cluttered environments. Typical aerial robots are incapable of varying their shape mid-flight, due to the added complexity and mass that this would entail. We have proposed a design that allows a multicopter to passively change its shape, thus not requiring any actuators beyond those already present, and resulting in a vehicle retaining the beneficial characteristics of a multicopter, but able to modify its shape in response to operational requirements:
In collaboration with the ETH Zurich, we have also developed systems capable of flight with as few as a single moving part: the Monospinner. This is arguably the world’s most mecahnically simple controllable, flight-capable machine.