A new quadcopter is based on da Vinci’s 530-year-old helicopter model
Aerospace Engineering student Austin Prete from the University of Maryland spent nearly two years perfecting a helicopter design that was sketched some 500 years ago. Prete had access to modern materials and did what Leonardo da Vinci couldn't manage, making his helicopter concept a reality.
It is no secret that da Vinci's designs include schematics of what was probably the first vision of an aerial vehicle that could do a vertical take-off and landing. It is likely that da Vinci never managed to get a prototype working due to the materials he had at his disposal such as wood and leather, which were too dense for flight. But in 2019, the students at the University of Maryland tested whether the concept would actually support flight. When they found out that it did, one of the team members, Prete spent some more time perfecting the prototype to deliver Crimson Spin, a quadcopter working through corkscrew-like propellers.
As Gizmodo explains, da Vinci's design consisted of an aerial screw that would push the air downward to generate the lift for flight. In his quadcopter design, Prete didn't rely on da Vinci's methods of propulsion, but used modern motors instead and solved the problem of navigation; small speed changes in propeller speeds help tilt in the desired direction as in today's drones. Prete demonstrated Crimson Spin in flight at the recently concluded annual vertical flight symposium, in San Jose, California.
In addition to knowledge about quadcopters, Prete also had other modern tools at his disposal such as simulators that showed how the aerial screws worked and how vortexes formed by these screws spiral down an entire structure, while generating upward thrust. Prete also found that these aerial screws create less downwash when compared to standard propellers, which means that when used in remote areas, they would generate less dust and blowing material and also be less noisy, a handy feature for use in urban settings.
However, you are unlikely to come across an aerial screw drone-powered company dropping packages to your doorstep anytime soon. Prete will no longer be working on the drone or the concept, and now is back to further research the function, the performance, and the reliability of the design, he told Gizmodo.
There is plenty of learning and potential in the design for VTOL companies as well. Will they take a chance?