A patent has been lodged at the UK Intellectual Property Office for a new kind of drone. The application was from the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) at Porton Down in Wiltshire. The site is more usually known for its work in biological and chemical warfare. What makes the new drone unusual is that it employs four wings which work just like a dragonfly’s. This gives the drone fantastic manoeuvrability which means that it can more easily search complex locations such as buildings. Lift is provided by flapping rather than by the rotors which are present on more conventional drones. The drone will have two cameras with day/night ability. The advantage of such a drone is size, speed and manoeuvrability but this has to be weighed against the fact that the drone cannot hover and maintain observation from one place. The drone is most likely to be used for by spies and military agencies for reconnaissance and search.
Of course, there are lots of very small drones on the market and this is not even the first drone to use flapping wings to achieve flight. As long ago as 2012, the Dutch company “Green X” produced a drone (known as an ornithopter) that flew by flapping wings and could be disguised as falcons or hawks. What makes this dragonfly drone innovative is that Porton Down seems to have conquered the problem of co-ordinating four wings (rather than two) and at very high oscillations. It is this that has given it remarkable speed and manoeuvrability and that is the breakthrough.