3D-scanning quadrotor wheel conquers air, land and sea

Credit: IEEE Spectrum

There's a new quadrotor out there, one which defies all categorization. All at once, it can fly, roll across the ground and sail along the water. It's also got some seriously precise handling, giving it a possible future as a search and rescue vehicle. It's called the MUWA, which is short for "Multi-field Universal Wheel for Air-land Vehicle with Quad Variable-pitch Propellers".

The secret to MUWA's abilities is a simple foam ring, designed to allow the quadrotor to roll along the ground. The addition of a second, deployable ring both allows it to navigate waterways as well as to deliver flotation devices to those who need them.

While rolling along the ground, the quadrotor can steer and propel itself by precise manipulation of its rotors. It can even maintain a specific angle to the ground if need be. This control allows it to squeeze through vertical openings like partially-blocked doors and metal grates. It also allows the quadrotor or function as a 3D scanner.

A Kinect sensor mounted upon the quadrotor can be utilized to scan its surroundings. As the quadrotor circles an object, the Kinect compiles a 3D image, beaming it back to the controller for inspection. When it comes to finding people who may have lost consciousness after a natural disaster, a drone which can uniformly traverse land, sea and sky while scanning for survivors, could be a wonderful tool.

University of Tokyo JSK, via IEEE Spectrum

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