First Responder Drone Technologies

I am not a drone guy. I have never flown a drone. However, I am a technologist and system integration specialist with thirty years of military contracting experience including components for the F/A-18 and high speed coaxial RF switches, and a technology research and development professor.

I was recently asked to visit a university and its Institute developing various technologies. When asked to observe the high lift drone intended for air security and other uses I was stunned to learn that by “heavy lift” the drone world means 20-40 pounds.

Observing the drone closely I quickly understood why. First, propeller technology has not kept pace with scientific research on wing and blade technologies. The basic design is very much similar to that used by the Wright brothers in 1903, 113 years ago. Second, the motor technology did not take note of what I partly funded and worked on twenty years ago when we created and tested a motor with a 1:1 weight to power ratio.

For the uninitiated, if you visit a hardware store and buy a simple electric motor the ratio is 5:1 and has been for a century.

So, I am currently running a Kickstarter for First Responder Drone Technology which can be seen at: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1589176894/first-responder-drone-technologies

At that institute, the drone motor did take advantage of newer magnets, a very fine improvement, but quick math told me it has a weight to power ratio not better than 6:1. It should be 1:1 by now, like the motor we developed (I was COO and an investor) in the 1990s but which was never brought to market. If we had, we could be making human lift drones right now. (But that is a much longer story.)

Add to this the improved propeller with an increased efficiency of 75%-85% and we have drones better able to stay aloft, and do so with more lift capacity.

I asked the drone people at the university if this would be beneficial, and the reply was, “That is the holy grail of the drone world.”

Why is this so? Well, human lift drones, needed for many emergency situations are simply outside the range of technology. The military has them but they are half million dollar devices with fueled engines. But also for other critical applications such as simple search and rescue, we simply need drones that have the capacity to carry the respective platforms and stay aloft for longer periods, which can save many lives each year.

When I was an Adj. Professor at SDSU College of Sciences my director also ran the Homeland Security program and the “VizLab.” He is deeply involved in security issues and also stated the need for improved drone technologies to allow for increased air time and lift for specific uses.

A friend in Arizona with a lot of political connections immediately jumped on the idea. I went home and started to work. The concepts for this first project are easy: Build a set of networked drones that can fly a pattern to find lost people, then send a drone to care them to safety. This can be done, it isn’t hard, all we need is help to fund the technology development, thus the Kickstarter campaign.

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I soon ran into several realities: First, I needed to pay people to do work. Go figure. Second, my computer system could not handle the outputs needed for several design aspects. The software overpowers the video card and processor when items become too complex.

What has been accomplished is 90% of the propeller work, and about 50% of the motor work. What needs to be done is the embodiment of each and their testing.

Once complete drone capabilities will be significantly improved at all levels.

 

By Ronald Newcomb

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