If you’re in Las Vegas this week, be sure to catch some of the eccentric drones and drone projects on display at Interdrone, the International Drone Conference and Exhibition.
But even outside of Vegas, this has been an unusual week for drone developments. Here are some of the oddballs we spotted, ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous.
The Breakthrough Starshot program to explore other worlds was announced last year, but just this week there’s been the tantalizing suggestion that humans may have been beaten to it … possibly by millions of years.
The Starshot idea is that tiny drones could be sent lights years away to our nearest neighbor star and then report back, all within the lifetime of the engineers who launched them.
Breakthrough Starshot’s proposed drones are smaller than hobby Arduino microchips, but loaded with cameras, sensors, communication systems and a power source.
About a thousand small drones equipped with solar sails would be propelled through space by a powerful laser beam on earth.
Travelling at about 20% the speed of light they would arrive at Alpha Centauri in about 20 years, photograph the star’s exoplanet(s) and transmit back photos and data to show us what they found.
Putting a little laser wind in the sail of a StarChip drone.
OKAY, SO WHAT’S NEW
It may have already been done.
Astronomers recently detected intense blasts of energy known as Fast Radio Bursts coming from a dwarf galaxy three billion light years from us. These mysterious bursts have been spotted before and magnetized neutron stars were offered as an explanation.
But that’s not the explanation we like.
BLASTS FROM THE COSMIC PAST
The fifteen high energy bursts detected over a five hour period are similar to what you’d expect if aliens were using high energy lasers to blast tiny spacecraft across the cosmos.
It’s a humbling thought that there may have been drone pilots when all life on earth was single-celled.
By the way, the bursts were detected by Breakthrough Listen, a sister project of Breakthrough Starshot.
Where did I put my RFID keys? RFly knows.
It’s not rocket science, but missing inventory isn’t going to count itself.
MIT’s Media lab proposes a batteryless drone called RFly that routinely patrols the aisles of warehouses, keeping track of inventory that’s been tagged by the little RFID (radio-frequency identification) chips.
Typically a worker has to wander around a warehouse looking for wayward product using a scanner. This little drone is more sensitive to the RFIDs and has a location algorithm that MIT says will log every RFID on its flight path with pinpoint accuracy.
AND, AS PROMISED, THE RIDICULOUS
This is probably more of a testament to the efficiency of modern electric motors than to a subtle understanding of the physics of flight.
Ohio drone maker Peter Sripol puts the high in carbohydrate
But it’s hard not to admire the dedication of Peter Sripol. He experimented with a number of different flying sandwiches before he found an unleavened bread that would actually rise.
Sripol used a DJI phantom to lift his snack-drone to a decent initial altitude and…
But why am I explaining this? It’s much easier to taste food than to describe its savour. Behold the Tortilla Drone:
Keep the guac handy in case this thing makes a tailspin for the dip.
And let’s hope the aliens didn’t see this and kept going.
Glad you enjoyed that story.
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