Collaborative technology will allow drones to be lifted with heavy charges

Although drones show promise as a way to deliver parcels within cities, their small size limits the transportation of relatively light parcels. However, a new experimental system could allow several drones to work together to lift heavy objects.

Currently under development at Georgia Institute of Technology, the configuration includes a 5.4 kg cargo box measuring 61 cm on each side. Inside the box is a docking facility that houses four small drones – a system that can be miniaturized for use with larger crates and more aircraft.

Once the package is in the box, the drones take off simultaneously, constantly communicating with each other throughout the flight.

This allows them to coordinate factors like propulsion and steering, so that they all fly together as a cohesive unit.

Plans call for the final release to include an infrared system in both docking stations, allowing the drones to automatically position and dock. An especially useful solution for collecting parcels from individuals, in situations where there are no personnel trained to manually attack drones.

As an added bonus, by analyzing the amount of co-thrust required to maintain a given height, the system can estimate the weight of the loads being moved.

It is hoped that once developed further, the configuration will allow delivery companies to use full-size fleets of drones, rather than having to invest more in ever-larger models for heavier payloads than ever before.

“The delivery truck can carry dozens of drones in the rear, and depending on how heavy a particular package is, it can use up to six drones for delivery,” says the professor. Jonathan Rogers. “This will allow flexibility in the weight of the parcels that can be delivered and will eliminate the need to build and maintain different sizes of delivery drones.”

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Samantha Arnold

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