Dutch scientists introduce world’s smallest racing drone

Monitoring Desk

STOCKHOLM: World’s smallest autonomous racing drone has been created by researchers at TU Delft. Drone measures in a 10cm diameter or slightly less than 4-inches with a weight of just 72 grams to fly and track autonomously using a single camera.

According to New Atlas, the small drone can achieve speeds that rival that of the fastest and largest automated drones. Some of the fastest drones in competitions are moving at 2m/s. Typically autonomous drones require high-performance processors and multiple high-quality cameras with some using laser scanners for operations.

The researchers were able to design this smaller drone thanks to the algorithm they invented. Their drone captures only essential data like thrust and drag forces on the drone. To reduce the needed sensors, the team cut back to using only the estimated drone attitude for its predictive model. The drift of that model is corrected over time using vision methods.

Using the new algorithms, the team raced the drone along a 4-gate race track where it flew multiple laps at an average speed of 2 m/s. That is competitive with larger autonomous racing drones. The team says that the drone can cope with the displacement of the gates.

Other benefits to a much smaller drone include the ability to choose their trajectory more freely, and the gates are relatively larger for the smaller drones making it easier to fit through. The next steps for the drone project include better predictive control, state estimation, and computer vision.

The drone tech also has the potential to be used in search and rescue and package delivery scenarios of the future.