We first came across the ‘Unmanned Flying Ball from Japan” earlier this year in June. Now the Japanese Ministry of Defence Research Department has made an official launch at the Digital Content Expo in Tokyo last week.
Fumiyuki Sato, Technical Official at TRDI, Ministry of Defence presented the machine to a crowded room. He demonstrated how it can stand still in mid-air and fly vertically and horizontally through narrow spaces. The ball is 42 centimetres in diameter, weighs 350 grams, can hover for 8 minutes and reach a maximum speed of 60 km/h. It has three gyro sensors on board, so it can regain stability if it strikes an obstacle. Assembled from COTS parts, the total cost of parts is $1,400.
Here is a transcript of Sato’s presentation:
“Because the exterior is round, this machine can land in all kinds of attitudes, and move along the ground. It can also keep in contact with a wall while flying. Because it’s round, it can just roll along the ground, but to move it in the desired direction, we’ve brought the control surfaces, which are at the rear in an ordinary airplane, to the front.”
“In horizontal flight, the propeller provides the propulsive force, while the wings provide lift. For the machine to take off or land in that state, it faces upward. When it does so, the propeller provides buoyancy. At that time, too, the control surfaces provide attitude control. After landing, the machine moves along the ground using the control surfaces and propeller.”
“In our aircraft R&D, we have a plane that can stand up vertically after flying horizontally. But the problem with that plane is, take-off and landing are very difficult. As one idea to solve that problem, we thought of making the exterior round, or changing the method of attitude control. That’s how we came up with this machine, to test the idea.”
“All we’ve done is build this from commercially available parts, and test whether it can fly in its round form. So its performance as such has absolutely no significance. But we think it can hover for eight minutes continuously, and its speed can go from zero, when it’s hovering, to 60 km/h.”
The Japanese Defence Ministry envisions using the machine as a search and rescue tool and as an intelligence and reconnaissance drone.
Source: DigInfo TV