Collaboration with drone startup Flybotix develops high performance brushless DC motors for a new kind of inspection drone
Two rotors instead of four was the approach used by startup Flybotix to develop its ASIO inspection drone, an indoor model for industrial facilities. It is built around a patented drive system powered by brushless DC motors from maxon, who worked closely with Flybotix to develop electric motors that are optimised for weight and performance as well as being adapted to this application. The drives will allow the ASIO to carry out long missions, reach distant locations, and save costs.
Flybotix is a Swiss company, based in Lausanne, which coincidentally is also home to one of maxon's innovation laboratories. Flybotix CEO and founder Samir Bouabdallah has 15 years of experience in developing drone technology at the EPFL and also at ETH Zurich. The drive system he developed with his team is an algorithm-controlled propulsion and steering mechanism with two degrees of freedom. “That gives the drones the aerodynamic performance of a helicopter and the mechanical reliability of a quadcopter” he says. ASIO is surrounded by a protective cage, is designed to be collision-proof, and allows access to tight spaces to carry out inspections safely. An on-board camera, combined with a high-quality display on the remote control, allows ‘pilots’ to fly safely in hazardous areas such as oil storage tanks, underground mines, or power plants.
The market for unmanned autonomous aerial vehicles (UAV) is generally regarded to be new but very dynamic—many startups like Flybotix are involved, and there are plenty of potential applications in areas like inspection, agriculture, security, and transport. Following the industry’s initial ventures (and a few setbacks), the safety requirements placed on unmanned aerial vehicles and their components has increased and is likely to continue doing so.
In 2019 maxon developed a number of initial drives which were constructed for special projects, with matching ESCs (Electronic Speed Controllers). In the drone market, the motor is not the only thing that matters. Equally important is the interplay of BLDC motors, motor controllers, and matching propellers. Designers know that this is the only way to get the most out of the system in terms of thrust and energy efficiency. maxon's engineers were eager to learn as much as they could from experts like Samir Bouabdallah and to foster information exchange, right from the start. With the experience gained, maxon says it is ready to support customers in the fast-growing UAV market with customized motors and systems.
Incidentally, the most talked-about drone in the world, “Ingenuity,” which will take off from the surface of Mars in 2021, is equipped with six maxon DC motors. A matter of some gravity.