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By Matt Doernhoefer, Product Director

We do live in an age of wonders when it comes to materials science.

As a child, I marveled over the concept that a space shuttle would experience temperatures of 2,200° F on reentry and shrug it off. The shuttle’s thermal protection system material was so advanced, you could heat it up to 2,200° F and then grab it seconds later.

That was developed 40 years ago. Today we have things like carbon and silicate aerogels – which have been called “frozen smoke” – used in everything from tennis balls to spacecraft, and metallic “foams” that look like someone ran an aquarium bubbler through a block of solid metal. The first new blue pigment in over 200 years was just released to the market, and … I’m sorry, did you just say metallic hydrogen?

To the aerospace engineers of the 1980s, some of these materials would seem like witchcraft. To a team manufacturing a drone, the opportunities are nothing short of overwhelming.

The tension of forces inside a drone we have is even more challenging than a standard aircraft or even a space shuttle (sorry NASA). The Digital Aerolus Folded Geometry Framework® (FGF®) adjusts the thrust output between the four ducted rotors to not only keep the drone airborne, but also stable. We use 32-dimensional geometry to keep us stable without the use of GPS. All of those factors make sure we stay upright, but at the same time, the forces on the drone are constantly changing.

Headwinds, crosswinds, up and downdrafts in addition to the 10,000+ RPM rotors put tremendous forces on our drone. We’ve had more than a few test rotors suffer rapid, unplanned disassembly on us in our test lab. With each incident, we learn and improve, altering different variables, including at times the materials we use in our construction.

To make the rugged industrial drone, we use solid, laser-cut carbon fiber to form the body. We love carbon fiber for its rigidity and strength in a lightweight package. Trying to find the right material with the right properties to make our drone is always a challenge and even more so when trying to take into account the latest and greatest advances in materials science.

We’re trying to strike a balance between rigid, flexible, and strong all at the same time. After all, we’re creating a workplace tool, not a toy. In our next version, we’re making a unibody design using materials that could change their composition as you move throughout the frame. The ability to be rigid where we need it and flexible where we don’t is a strength of an agile company like ours.

We’ll have to have long and involved discussions around carbon nanotubes, multi-material additive manufacturing, and advanced composites to keep relevant. I’ll have to fetch my white coat and crazy white hair wig out of the closet to have some of these discussions with our engineers.