Drones are amazing machines which are being put to increasingly imaginative uses as the technology matures. In the hands of an experienced and CAA approved pilot, they are also very safe. However one area where safety could be improved is looking how to reduce the risk of injury from the exposed propellers. The propellers are also quite vulnerable to damage in collisions with other surfaces (trees, walls etc.) which make flying them in enclosed environments very challenging.
Some traditional drones can be fitted with propeller guards or are designed so the propellers can be protected however Edgar Herrera took the idea a step further and won the Red Dot Design Concept Award with this design for a Bladeless Drone.:
His intriguing idea is to use 4 bladeless propellers to accelerate air through internal ducts and blades and generate lift. Bear in mind though, it is just a design - not a working prototype.
But Markus Kung, a graduate London's Royal College of Art has run with this idea and created a working prototype. His drone design uses impellers instead of exposed propeller blades:
His drone generates lift by sucking air through the side of the motors and blowing it downwards via impellers to generate lift. In addition to eliminating the possibility of injury caused by exposed rotor blades this design is also quieter in operation than a traditional Quad-copter drone. However, it does use more energy so obviously more development will be needed if this kind of design is to become more mainstream.
Certainly the advantages of bladeless drones are obvious and if the some key design problems can be overcome the increased safety and durability these kind of vehicles could afford will make them very useful for flying in enclosed spaces or close up to people.
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