Whisper

The Concept

The Whisper is a new class of reconnaissance drone that is able to perch and take-off from any vertical surface by mimicking the behaviour of birds. The Whisper is small and light and would recharge its batteries using the force of light winds spinning its propeller.

Origin of the idea

The Whisper concept was inspired by Sherbrooke’s University Multimodal Autonomous S-MAD prototype. The researchers were able to create a small plane that could generate upward thrust just like a bird landing, to enable the plane to land and perch on walls and vertical surfaces (see video).

How it works

The Whisper is equipped with a sensor that detects a vertical surface, which then guides the onboard computer to softly land on it. While perched, the Whisper is able to use onboard cameras, mounted on its back, to provide an overview of the area.

The Whisper can be used to provide aerial monitoring during disaster response, perform inspection of critical, hard to reach infrastructure, and monitor wildlife in remote areas. The Whisper can also be deployed in swarms to provide multiple sources of feedback. In such a configuration, additional functionality such as 3-D imagining, extending a peer-to-peer Wi-Fi service, or multiple sensors (each drone having a different one) can be achieved.

By perching, the Whisper does not need to waste energy to stay on station (unlike a traditional drone that would need to spend energy to hover).  In more advanced systems, it could also seek out sources of wind (e.g. exit air ducts from buildings) to recharge its batteries through the propeller.

Microgriffs or small hooks can be used to cling to rough surfaces and small electromagnets will allow the Whisper to perch on smooth magnetic surfaces such as iron. These electromagnets can be switched on and off to provide easy detachment from the surface when flight is due to be resumed.

Potential Market

The Whisper will literally give the user a bird’s eye view of the surrounding area. They can be sent into areas that have experienced natural disasters in order to provide images ahead of the deployment of disaster relief services. During natural disasters, the onboard cell or Wi-Fi repeater units will provide coverage that would otherwise have been compromised and allow for people in the area to get in contact with authorities and receive help.

The Whisper has applications in law enforcement and will allow police a cheap, safe and inconspicuous alternative to monitoring suspects. The Whisper may also be used to provide high tech and 3D imaging to a variety of users from civil engineers to countryside surveyors. It should also be noted that the energy source to operate the Whisper is extremely ‘green’ as it utilizes wind power.

Acknowledgements

The Whisper concept was imagined in October 2018 by Charles Bombardier and designed by Ashish Thulkar, an Industrial Designer from Bangalore, India. Ashish graduated with a master’s degree in design from the Indian Institute of Science in 2014. He currently works as a freelance vehicle designer in Mumbai, India. Ashish also created the images of the Jetsol concept for Imaginactive.