Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Flying Drone Blanket can connect and manage swarms of drones simultaneously

It is becoming increasingly common that the swarms of illuminated drones are being used for aerial light shows. However, it can still be difficult to simultaneously charge and launch all those aircraft.

When there is a need, there is a solution! An international design and innovation studio, CRA-Carlo Ratti Associati, in collaboration with the drone company Flyfire, has prototyped a new system for connecting and managing large swarms of drones.

The new system revolves around a mesh – a “Flying Drone Blanket” that takes the form of a semi-rigid structure, which both mechanically and electrically connects drones together. The blanket can be folded up to fit inside a suitcase and allows fleets of quadcopters to take off simultaneously.

Flying Drone Blanket can connect and manage swarms of drones simultaneously.
The new system fits inside a suitcase. Credit: Flyfire

Each blanket could hold up to 16 drones and doubles as their charging pad – ensuring that the entire system is quickly deployable. All the drones can subsequently be mounted in the blanket’s square receptacles while simultaneously charging their batteries from a linked power source.

To take off, each quadcopter makes a 45-degree handle turn and spins out of the blanket. The drones disconnect from their receptacle at the time of take-off. A twist in the opposite direction allows the drones to lock back into the mesh and immediately begin to recharge.

Flying Drone Blanket can connect and manage swarms of drones simultaneously.
It allows fleets of quadcopters to take off simultaneously. Credit: Flyfire

Envisioned as a modular design, the Flying Drone Blanket could scale up to a formation of 10,000 units, resulting in the largest drone show ever. The blankets can be linked together to create ever-wider launching areas.

Each drone features a sleek modular design that incorporates smart batteries paired with an advanced Drone Management Controller (DMC) for hassle-free operations. The device is compact, lightweight, and robust, and each one of them can be visible from long distances thanks to ultra-bright LEDs. In addition, the system is fully compatible with Drone Show Software, making it possible to quickly plan and perform a choral light show in which swarms of drones work together.

In the last few years, individual drones have become a common presence in everyday life. Working with Flyfire, we set out to explore the next challenge – how do we make drone swarms more attainable?asks Carlo Ratti, director of MIT Senseable City Lab and founder of CRA. “With this project, we imagine a near future where drone swarms can be used for multiple purposes – from light shows to mapping buildings with 3D scanning to sensing air and water quality – in a scenario that we might describe as an ‘Internet of Flying Objects.’