Flying robot balls!
Written by Harry Fairhead   
Monday, 13 June 2011

OK I agree that this isn't a robot - it's a remote controlled platform - but add some sensors, a video camera and turn its remote over to a computer and you have an ideal sentry bot for internal work.

There are lots of flying robot platforms - quadrotors being the most commonly encountered - but most have a problem. They generally have lots of propellers spinning very fast, making lots of noise and looking dangerous. This design is quieter and it looks a lot more friendly. It can fly around inside a building and because it is ball shaped it can simply bounce of walls, or people, and land and take off without having to be ultra precise. Put simply, it's a safe robust flier which makes it ideal for an indoor robotics platform.

 

ballcopter

It was built byTechnical research and Development Institute (TRDI) from off-the-shelf parts, reportedly bought from the Akihabar electronics shopping center in Tokyo for about $1000. The design uses a single ducted fan and four vanes are used to vector the thrust to make the whole thing stable without the use of a tail rotor or counter rotating blades.

While it it true that essentially all we have is a helicopter inside a ball-shaped cage, the design is innovative in the way that it uses the ducted fan and seems to be very stable. Currently its only payload seems to be a very small video camera.

You can see the device in action in a video from a Japanese TV station (TV Tokyo) where the ball appears to chase a female reporter inside a building. It may be a stunt for a TV show but it looks convincing.

 

 

 

There isn't a great deal of precise information about how it works. Presumably gyro feedback is being used to keep it stable, but how long its batteries last and what sort of payloads it can carry are unknown.

Let's hope it makes it into production soon and ... oh yes, it does look a lot like the flying robot spheres that feature in so many SciFi movies...

 

ballrobot

 

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