A Reconfigurable Drone: Morph Between Fixed-Wing and Multi-Rotor

Figure 1. Reconfigurable drone with fold-able wings.  The drone has four vertical rotors to be a quadcopter when the wings are folded.  It also has a horizontal propeller placed in the front to enable horizontal flight when the wings are unfolded.  The polyester fabric that will be placed on the scissor mechanism is not shown for clarity.
Opportunity

Available for Collaboration or Funding

Inventor

Jianguo Zhao
Haijie Zhang
Jiefeng Sun

At A Glance

Researchers at Colorado State University have developed a reconfigurable drone that can switch between having a multi-rotor and fixed wing, allowing the drone the ability to have high agility in addition to access to narrow spaces.

 

Licensing Director

Mandana Ashouri
Mandana.Ashouri@colostate.edu
970-491-7100

Reference No.: 19-018

Background

Existing drones are either based on fixed wings or multi-rotors, each of which has their own advantages and disadvantages.  Drones with fixed wings are more energy efficient to fly for a larger range. However, they are not as agile as drones with multi-rotors: they cannot take off vertically, hover in space, or access confined spaces. Drones with multi-rotors (e.g., quadcopters), on the other hand, are agile, but they can only fly for only a short time (< 30 minutes) due to high energy consumption, preventing them from applications for long-duration and large-range tasks (e.g., inspection and mapping a large area).

Technology Overview

The invention is a novel reconfigurable drone that can morph between a multi-rotor and fixed wing configuration to fully exploit the advantages of both types of drones. Such a drone is initially a quadcopter with wings folded into the body. With folded wings, the drone has:

  1. high agility to take off vertically or hover in space; and
  2. compact size to access narrow spaces

The drone can thusly change to a fixed-wing configuration by unfolding the two wings to enable energy-efficient forward flight for long duration tasks.

The reconfigurable drone has the ability to transform between a fixed-wing and a quadcopter at any time.

Benefits
  • Reconfigurable 
  • Fixed-wing and multi rotor
  • Excellent maneuverability and portability
  • Easy to use
  • Vertical take‑off and precise landing with access to narrow spaces
Applications
  • Military – stealth surveillance and reconnaissance
  • Civilian / Commercial – inspections in cluttered or indoor environments (e.g., mining facilities, oil and gas infrastructures, or manufacturing sites, etc.); package delivery in residential areas
  • Consumer

Last updated: May 2020