What’s the core of the idea?
The idea of the Loon Copter was to create a drone that can “swim” just as well as it can fly. We named it after the Loon, a bird that is native to Michigan, who flies through the air, swims on the surface of the water and can dive under the water. Our drone flies like a conventional quadcopter that can take-off and land on the ground as well as water. When our drone has landed on water, it can maneuver over the water’s surface like a boat. To submerse beneath the water’s surface, our drone takes on water as ballast to rotate 90 degrees and submerge, moving through the water in a similar fashion to a submarine.
How do you think it can do ‘good'?
We see the Loon Copter as an enabling technology that can be employed in many different applications, including search-and-rescue operations, bridge foundation inspections, underwater pipeline inspections, tracking of oil spills at different depths, and marine life studies. It has been suggested that the drone could also function in a shark monitoring station at a beach, if a shark is sighted the drone could take a shark deterrent into the water. This is the first-time a technology like this has existed, it will be interesting to see what other situations people will come up with as well.
What are you working on now that you’ve made it to the final stages?
We are focusing on extending the communication range underwater for remote operations and for streaming live sensor/video data feeds. We are also considering autonomy underwater for mission where open waters are involved. We also know that there is room for improving the hull design for less drag underwater.
What field trials or testing have you done?
We were able to test the full functionality of the drone at Oakland University's campus pool. We have practiced ground and water take-offs and landings as well as the air to water transition and maneuvering the drone while submerged.
Are you excited?
We are very excited to participate in the Drones for Good competition. We have worked many long nights and weekends in preparation for this event and we are very extremely excited to show off all of our hard work. Furthermore, we appreciate Drones for Good highlighting and pushing researches and developers towards positive drone technologies and applications.