A New Type Of Drone
Written by Harry Fairhead   
Saturday, 14 July 2018

We are well beyond peak drone - to be more accurate beyond peak drone videos. There doesn't seem much left to do but find applications. A tricopter is a bit special and interesting to watch.

We are all fairly used to quadrotor-based drones. They work by varying the lift on each of the rotors a to tilt the drone in the direction that you want it to move in. This means that direction of motion and yaw and pitch aren't decoupled. This isn't usually a problem if all you are interested in is a delivery drone where tilting on the body is irrelevant. It becomes more important if you are using a drone to capture aerial video because the video platform has to tilt to move. Usually you need to use a "steady cam" type of mount to keep the camera level. 

A tricopter is different. It has only three rotors but each rotor can be twisted to direct the thrust:


This arrangment provides six actuators for the six degrees of freedom that the drone has - hence it is said to be fully actuated unlike a standard quadcopter.

So what does this allow the tricopter to do - take a look at the video of the project from the Lehrstuhl für Systemtheorie und Regelungstechnik at the University of Saarland to find out:


The stability is impressive and the ability to move without tilting looks very sci-fi. However there is a serious ascpect to this fun project. Given the increased control it is possible to use tricopters to move large extended objects while keeping things stable.

Take a look at the next video and notice the movement in the tricopter as the result of the swinging rope:


It does look as if the tricopter is a better design and the simplicity of the additional controls and the loss of one rotor makes it an economical design.

If you need a stable platform or a stable way of moving things then it is a good idea. I'd like to see how they perform in a windy environment.


More Information

Control of tricopters cooperating to transport a load via ropes.

J. Rudolph and  M. Konz Saarland University

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