Small drone with no exposed rotor blades, suitable for use in narrow, dangerous spaces
By Jim Magill
Looks like a micro version of the Death Star, the Dronut X1, which Boston start-up Cleo Robotics released for commercial use earlier this month, is the first professional double-rotor drone fan drone – a drone with no exposed rotor blades – built, to conduct inspections in confined and dangerous environments.
Its unique design with hidden propellers and rounded shape means the Dronut is collision tolerant and can operate near sensitive equipment, said Omar Eleryan, CEO and co-founder of Cleo Robotics, in an interview.
“The Dronut X1 is the world’s first drone based on drone drone technology, which is as powerful as a quadcopter drone in terms of maneuverability, but quadcopter performance in terms of flight time and the ability to hit things to bump outperforms, especially in its current form factor, ”said Eleryan.
The Dronut X1 is built from tough but lightweight carbon fiber composite materials, weighs just under a pound and measures 6.5 inches in diameter.
The drone has a LiDAR-operated obstacle detection and a sensor suite for image and data acquisition with HD photo / video and 3D point cloud output. With its Dronut X1 Pilot Assist – powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon – the flying robot does not have to be operated by a well-trained drone pilot. The software makes flying the aircraft easier and safer, so the operator can focus on collecting the data they need instead of manually managing the drone’s trajectory.
“It also has multiple gyroscopes on board and LED lights for low light environments,” said Eleryan.
Cleo Robotics was founded in 2017 to specialize in “unconventional drones that fly in places where typical drones can’t and that are really designed to go to places that are too dangerous or dangerous for humans,” said he.
Eleryan, who previously worked in the oil and gas industry, said his team founded the company to find a solution for conducting inspections in tight spaces that could prove dangerous to humans.
“Personally, I’ve been in situations where I and some of my co-workers have had to go into really dangerous, dirty and dangerous environments, tanks and pressure vessels,” he said. “We thought, instead of sending people into these environments, why not send some kind of robot with the necessary cameras and sensors?
Since the existing robots and drones weren’t up to the task, the Cleo robotics team set out to develop their own drone that was small and tough enough to work in cramped spaces, and one with no exposed and buzzing rotor blades, which could damage or destroy sensitive lines and measuring devices.
“Drones, especially quadcopter drones, are too big, they have exposed propellers, so they’re not the ideal tool. Floor robots can’t climb scaffolding or move vertically, so they don’t work either, ”he said.
Although research has been into the development of dumping fan drones for several years, none has been launched. The ducted fan drones under development at the time had some advantages, such as higher efficiency and smaller size compared to conventional multi-rotor drones. But these models of exhaust fans were extremely difficult to control and maneuver.
“Our goal is to develop a solution that will make ducted fan drones as controllable and maneuverable as quadcopter drones,” said Eleryan. When developing the Dronut X1, Cleo introduced a patented thrust vector technology that makes the ducted fan design stable in flight. The UAV also uses a camera that executes a computer vision algorithm for location and positioning.
With a drone system for just under $ 10,000, Cleo Robotics has already won several major customers in the industrial and commercial sectors, including FM Global, a property insurance company, and the large oil and gas company Chevron, as well as some customers in the US construction and public sectors.
One of the first customers is the U.S. Army, which has used the drones as an intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) solution for use in non-GPS environments, Eleryan said.
“They use it to see surroundings before they actually go in. They clean up buildings and caves and other areas like that,” he said.
Manufactured in Boston using parts from American sources, the Dronut X1 complies with the National Defense Authorization Act, making it available to the Department of Defense and other federal agencies.
“There is a huge opportunity for drones that can be used indoors and in confined spaces. The drone industry is a very large industry, but drones have so far been limited to operating in open fields far away from people, ”said Eleryan. “I think there are many ways to bring this technology closer to people, be it on the factory floor or in warehouses.”
Read more in-depth articles by Jim Magill on eVTOL Personal Vehicles, 3D Mapping of the Italian City of Positano, and the Small US Company Entering the Global Plant Spray Drone Market.
Jim Magill is a Houston-based writer with nearly a quarter of a century of experience relating to technical and economic developments in the oil and gas industry. After retiring as Senior Editor at S&P Global Platts in December 2019, Jim began writing about new technologies such as artificial intelligence, robots and drones and how they are contributing to our society. In addition to DroneLife, Jim is a contributor to Forbes.com and his work has been published in the Houston Chronicle, US News & World Report, and Unmanned Systems, an Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International publication.
Miriam McNabb is Editor-in-Chief of DRONELIFE and CEO of JobForDrones, a professional marketplace for drone services, and a passionate observer of the emerging drone industry and regulatory environment for drones. Author of over 3,000 articles focusing on the commercial drone space, Miriam is an international speaker and recognized figure in the industry. Miriam graduated from the University of Chicago and has over 20 years experience in high-tech sales and marketing for emerging technologies.
For advice or writing on the drone industry, email Miriam.
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