Anyone who lives near a deciduous forest knows the joy of the maple seed, or as we called them when we were kids, helicopters. Their single wing spins the seed, slowing its descent — so why shouldn’t a similarly-designed wing be able to spin faster and actually fly upwards? Lockheed Martin has demonstrated a new drone platform, not quite a nano air vehicle but still simple and light, that does just this.
Looking at it, you’d never think the Samarai would fly. But fly it does, and remarkably well at that. Apparently getting it into the air wasn’t the hard part; after all, if you move a wing fast enough, it’ll lift, right? On the other hand, learning to control this single-wing design isn’t exactly intuitive. Traditional aviation ideas don’t apply when your entire craft is spinning.
Check out the video:
The design was developed in Lockheed’s Intelligent Robotics Laboratories in New Jersey, and the idea is to make a UAV platform that could be easily carried by soldiers and deployed just by throwing it. The video shows the Samarai doing vertical take-off and landing as well, so it sounds like throwing isn’t even necessary.
The payloads and sizes are flexible, since apparently the design is easy to scale by using 3D printing methods. This isn’t the first maple-seed project: students at the University of Maryland demonstrated a small version, and Lockheed themselves were looking to it as early as 2006 as a potential nano air vehicle platform. I guess it took them longer than they expected.