The First RC-Accessible VTOL Drone — and It Runs on APM!

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On the heels of the much-touted Arcturus JUMP flight, we thought it might be nice to announce that Adam Sloan and John Hampton, the two-man crew that is BirdsEyeView Aerobotics, have just developed the first RC-accessible VTOL drone, the FireFly6, which runs on our APM platform.

For the uninitiated, VTOL (Vertical Take-Off and Land) is a fixed-wing aircraft outfitted with propellers that can take off and hover like a copter, but can also shift into a plane’s forward flight mode. As hybrids, VTOLs have a few unique advantages over planes and copters alone. It’s hard to find big fields to launch and land a plane, and in many parts of the world, such as rainforests, cities, or islands, it’s especially difficult. On the other side, multicopters can only fly for a short time, so if you’re making a delivery or want to cover a large area — say, for mapping — you need the flight time and forward speed that a plane provides.

VTOLs have a reputation for being difficult to develop and manage. But Sloan believes that’s not so much a matter of the difficulty as it is a matter of time — since not many people have dedicated themselves to developing this platform, it’s been plagued with problems. However, Sloan says that the recent explosion of multi-copters has finally brought accessible technology to VTOL and made it more viable.

A few things make the FireFly6 especially unique, including redundancy in the propeller arrangement, and rotating propellers that reduce the cross-section of the plane in the wind. As for the choice of APM, Sloan says, “I’ve flown a lot of controllers, and APM is easily the best for forward flight.” And true to APM’s roots in the DIY community, Sloan wants to keep his platform open. “We’d like to see the technology trickle down to everyday users.”

To learn more about the FireFly6, click here.

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