SQUID Drone: Up and away!

SQUID in flight. (Photo: Caltech University)

Researchers from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Caltech University (JPL) have developed a system that shoots drones from the back of moving vehicles.

Getting a drone off the ground can be a daunting task. You must ensure that you’re not too close to people, cars, electrical wires and or buildings before launch.  A team from Caltech University and NASA’s JPL created a ballistic launch system. It quickly propels a SQUID (Streamlined Quick Unfolding Investigation Drone) from pneumatic canons into the air.

Renders of SQUID. (Photo: Caltech University & NASA JPL)

The SQUID is an American football-shaped drone measuring 27 centimetres in length and weighing only 530 grams. By using pneumatic baseball pitching machines, the team was able to propel the drone at 35 miles per hour.

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A research paper and video published by the team shed some light on the propulsion and flight process of the drone.

During testing, it took six steps to get the drone from canon to full flight.

  1. Drone rests inside a barrel – the drone sits still in preparation for launch.
  2. Propulsion system engaged – compressed air rockets the drone upward.
  3. Release from canon – SQUID ascends at 35 mph from a barrel.
  4. Arms extend – built-in, retractable arms extend revealing propellers.
  5. Stabilisation – at this point, the drone adjusts itself for flight.
  6. Flight Mode – the drone achieves “standard multirotor controlled flight.”

The SQUID merely demonstrates what is possible through innovation and engineering.

What is truly impressive is that everything happened in under a second (about 700 milliseconds) and from the back of a pickup truck moving at approximately 50 miles per hour (80 kph). The hinged arms deploy after only 200 milliseconds

The system proves that it is indeed possible for drones to take to the skies from moving vehicles.

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The launch system is perfect for specific emergency and military use cases. Military personnel or firefighters can use aerial surveillance to assess an area without leaving vehicles or stopping. By propelling the device from a tube, there is greater control over the device’s trajectory, even in the case of failure.

The SQUID merely demonstrates what is possible through innovation and engineering. Other aspects such as battery life may improve over time, as the research document revealed only an 850mAh battery powering the drone. However, this technology could play a role in one day having drones deliver your pizza to your door.

BUZZ fam catch the SQUID drone in action: