We've seen some incredible progress recently when it comes to the sense and avoid technology that lets drones navigate around obstacles. But we're still waiting for these systems to be robust enough to actually deploy to the public. In the meantime, a Swiss company called Flyability has created a novel solution. As Engadget reports, it just won a million dollars in the UAE's Drones for Good competition by creating a craft where crashing into stuff is not a bug, but a feature.
The GimBall is a two-rotor drone inside of a soft, flexible globe. That outer frame rotates independently of the drone inside, allow the unit to bounce off walls while maintaining its altitude. In fact, the GimBall uses smashing into obstacles as a form of navigation. Give it a GPS waypoint and it will roll along walls and careen off of ceilings as it looks for an open path toward its destination.
"The goal of this flying robot is to reproduce the amazing capabilities of insects," says Adrien Briod, Flyability's co-founder and CTO. "Especially the fact that they can collide into things and continue flying afterwards.
Flyability envisions the GimBall being deployed in dangerous indoor situations like fires, chemical leaks, or nuclear meltdowns, when rescuers want to search through a building to locate potential survivors, but sending humans might be too dangerous. Although for my money, this unit also has a lot of potential as a training partner when you're trying to improve your toddler's freeze tag abilities.