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Amazon Patents Drones with Telescoping Landing Legs
A diagram shows how an Amazon drone could land on a sloping surface while keeping its main frame level, thanks to telescoping landing legs. (Amazon Illustration via USPTO)
Amazon’s inventors are taking a page from Inspector Gadget’s playbook to design drones with adjustable landing legs and reconfigurable propellers. Those two design tricks are the focus of patents issued today. It’s hard to say whether they’ll become features on Amazon’s delivery drones, still in development.
The idea for the landing gear, credited to Nicholas Kristofer Gentry, adapts the sort of telescoping feature long used for camera tripods: When a drone lands on a sloping surface, its legs can expand or contract to keep the drone’s frame (and, not incidentally, its payload) level.
“The landing gear assembly may also operate as a landing dampener to absorb shock resulting from a landing of the UAV [unmanned aerial vehicle] to absorb safe delivery of fragile items,” the patent says.
The patent even covers ideas such as building spikes, screws, suction cups or magnets into the landing legs. Such features could help the drone stay put while it’s sitting on icy, slippery or metallic surfaces.
This diagram shows how the angle of a drone’s propeller tips (seen at upper left) can be adjusted for different flying conditions during a trip from Boston to New York. (Amazon Illustration via USPTO)
The other patent published recently focuses on the tips of a drone’s propellers. The originators of this idea, Brian Beckman and Allan Ko, suggest building in a mechanism that can change the slant of the propeller tips, effectively creating “winglets” like the upturned tips on a Boeing 737’s wings.
Winglets can increase flight efficiency by minimizing the spinning vortices of air that are created as a flat surface slices through the air. However, there are some situations where winglets reduce flight stability – for example, if there’s a strong crosswind during takeoff or landing.
The patent lays out a scheme in which the drone can adjust the angle of its propeller tips to strike the right balance for its flying conditions. And that’s not all.
“Those of ordinary skill in the pertinent arts will recognize that the systems and methods of the present disclosure may be utilized to realign or readjust any attribute of a reconfigurable propeller, including not only cant angles of blade tips with respect to blade roots, but also blade pitches, blade lengths, blade rake angles, or any other attribute of the propeller,” the inventors say.
The applications for both patents were filed back in 2015. Amazon traditionally doesn’t comment on its patent filings, and there’s no evidence that the features have been built into the prototypes that the company is currently testing (or putting on display at this week’s SXSW conference in Texas).
Region: USA and Canada
2017-04-27Virginia Tech Aviation Partnership Test BVLOS Flights
Virginia Tech Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership, Ligado Networks, AeroVironment, Inc., and Dominion Virginia Power evaluated communications strategies and other parameters to help build a safety case for unmanned aircraft flights beyond the visual line of sight of a pilot or observer.
2017-04-24US Army Releases Counter-Drone Manual
Having developed and utilized unmanned aerial systems (UAS, or drones) for surveillance, targeting and attack, the US military now finds itself in the position of having to defend against the same technology.
2017-04-20US Army Purchases Dronebuster C-UAS System
Radio Hill has just finalized a contract initiated by the Army’s Rapid Equipping Force (REF) to purchase a large lot of block 3 Dronebusters. This hand-held drone detection and jamming systems for use in the battle against ISIL.
2017-04-17Verizon Tests New Drone-Based 4G LTE Service
On April 5, Verizon conducted the latest engineering flight tests to determine how large an area of wireless coverage can be created aerially using a “flying cell site” aboard a long endurance drone piloted by American Aerospace Technologies, Inc. (AATI).
2017-03-30General Atomics Gets $39M USAF MQ-9 Support Contract
General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc., Poway, California, has been awarded a $39,122,913 modification (06) to task order (0017) on previously awarded contract FA8620-15-G-4040 for MQ-9 contractor logistics support.
2017-03-29US Air Force Plans Recoverable Hypersonic UAS by 2040
US Air Force weapons developers expect to operate hypersonic intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance drones by the 2040s, once scientific progress with autonomy and propulsion technology matures to a new level.
2017-03-28Solar Cell Technology for NRL Solar-Soaring UAV
SolAero Technologies Corp. (SolAero), a provider of high efficiency solar cells, solar panels, and composite structural products for satellite and aerospace applications, announced that it has delivered its high performance, lightweight solar cell technology to the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) to power its Solar-Soaring UAV demonstrator.
2017-03-23Drone World Expo 2017 – Registration Now Open
Registration is now open for Drone World Expo 2017. From October 3-4, the 3rd annual Drone World Expo will once again gather thousands of thought leaders, end-users and decision makers in the commercial drone industry at the San Jose Convention Center.
2017-03-20DARPA Awards Phase 2 Gremlins Program Contracts
DARPA recently completed Phase 1 of its Gremlins program, which envisions volleys of low-cost, reusable unmanned aerial systems (UASs)—or “gremlins”—that could be launched and later retrieved in mid-air. Taking the program to its next stage, the Agency has now awarded Phase 2 contracts to two teams, one led by Dynetics, Inc. (Huntsville, Ala.) and the other by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (San Diego, Calif.).
2017-03-17US Air Force Buys Drone-Snagging Shotgun Shells
US Air Force security forces, as well as other military personnel and federal law enforcement agencies, may soon be getting a new tool to take down small commercial drones: shotgun shells with a net. The special cartridge is just one system the Pentagon has been looking at to manage the growing threat from small and readily available quad-and hex-copter-type unmanned aircraft.
Swarms of Drones Test New Dogfighting Skills
Swarms of Drones Test New Dogfighting Skills
2012-04-05 Hydrogen-powered Fuel Cell Flies ScanEagle