Solid-state drones

Steven Barrett & David Perreault

Graphic depicting solid-state drone

Small autonomous aircraft, or drones, are being used widely. A major limitation in many potential applications is the noise from drone propellers. This team demonstrated in 2018 the first flight of a solid-state airplane (i.e., no moving parts), and showed that near-silent drone propulsion is possible for an approximately 10-second indoor flight. Since then, the team has developed the propulsion and power electronics technology needed for potentially useful missions. This project will focus on building and demonstrating a small drone that flies outside for 10 to 30 minutes, carrying a useful payload. Current uses of drones include medical supply delivery and surveillance, while potential uses include package delivery, building and structural inspection, environmental monitoring, and microdrones for indoor and military surveillance.

GIF of camera footage from drone's second glide
Undistorted camera footage from unpowered glide 2; position and energy from camera tracking annotated. Credit: Steven Barrett

Watch Steve Barrett present Silent Drones at IdeaStream 2021.