When I read about the Sherbrooke University Water-Air VEhicle (SUWAVE) I was impressed to say the least. This fixed wing drone cleverly combines solar charging with a unique hinged propeller to literally hop (from lake to lake) its way to its final destination.
With a clever mechanism that allows it to efficiently take off and land on water, this drone could use solar charging to travel around lakes all summer.
Fixed-wing drones are the way to go for efficient flying, but they pose challenges for long term autonomy because of how demanding they are when it comes to takeoffs and landings. You need a nice big flat area, and usually you need infrastructure support. A drone that needs to operate for days or weeks at a time completely on its own can’t rely on either, which means you need to get creative.
At ICRA this week, researchers from the University of Sherbrooke in Canada have gotten creative, and came up with a very clever design for a fixed wing drone called SUWAVE (Sherbrooke University Water-Air VEhicle) that uses lakes as landing pads. It crash lands in them, recharges with solar power, and then takes off again with a brilliant hinged propeller.
Watch below to see this intriguing drone in action:
SUWAVE Aquatic Drone – RA Letters / ICRA 2017
Sherbrooke University Water-Air VEhicle (SUWAVE) performing takeoffs, flights and dive landings during the summer of 2016. Presented at ICRA 2017, Singapore. More information can be found in the following article:
Peloquin, R. A., Thibault, D., & Lussier Desbiens, A. (2017). Design of a Passive Vertical Takeoff and Landing Aquatic UAV. IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters, 2(2), 381-388.
With the goal of extending Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) mission duration, a solar recharge strategy is envisioned with lakes as preferred charging and standby areas. The Sherbrooke University Water-Air VEhicle (SUWAVE) concept developed is able to takeoff and land vertically on water. The physical prototype consists in a wing coupled to a rotating center body that minimizes the added components with a passive takeoff maneuver. A dynamic model of takeoff, validated with experimental results, serves as a design tool. The landing is executed by diving, without requiring complex control or wing folding. Structural integrity of the wing is confirmed by investigating the accelerations at impact. A predictive model is developed for various impact velocities. The final prototype has executed multiple repeatable takeoffs and has succeeded in completing full operation cycles of flying, diving, floating and taking off.