Drone Safety Improvements: Inspired By Nature

Improved drone safety inspired by the Falcon

The popularity of Unmanned Aircraft systems (UAS), also known as UAVs or drones, has increased substantially.  In addition to how the drones are being utilizing, there is a growing concern for how they will be piloted safely.   An emphasis on the importance of training and the accuracy of the data the pilots receive from the on-board instruments will help make drones safer and improve the efficiency in how they are used.   

Like commercial and civilian airplanes, one of the main measurements a pilot refers to when flying a drone is the combined air speed and pressure data.  This is also referred to as air data and is measured using a Pitot tube that is attached to the wings of the aircraft. When an aircraft experiences turbulent conditions, Pitot tubes provide inaccurate readings because the design relies on smooth airflow that is parallel to the direction of travel. Inaccurate air data can lead to loss of control.  To address this gap in functionality, researchers at the University of Kansas discovered that by utilizing the shape of the “tubercule”, a small bone found in a falcon’s nare, they were able to design an instrument that increases the accuracy of airflow speed data under dynamic flying conditions.

The invention is designed with a protruding centerbody that takes advantage of the Coanda effect, a phenomenon causing angular fluid flow to wrap around a surface, while the aft vent of the main body promotes through flow and helps the angular flow to enter the probe.  Additionally, the hollow center body allows the possibility of adding several other types of sensors to be integrated for greater design efficiency and advanced air data calculations. 

To view the data provided by this design compared to a GPS and a traditional Pitot tube, download the test results of a test flight below.  More information, including a summary of the invention, High Accuracy Air Data Sensor Probe, and a video of the test flight is also available.  To receive a link to the video or learn more about this invention, contact Shantanu Balkundi

March 27, 2015

About the Author

Michael Patterson
Licensing Associate — Physical Sciences & Engineering

Michael Patterson joined KUIC as a Licensing Associate in 2015. In addition to evaluating new KU inventions for patentability and commercialization potential, Michael markets KU inventions to prospective licensees, negotiates licensing terms, and advises faculty members on intellectual property protection and commercialization matters. Michael serves faculty from various departments in the fields of engineering, physical sciences, and education.