The concept of that has shown its progress in development, collecting significant interest from leading robotic institutions and the US Army. Most people are familiar with the commercially available polycopters. Polycopter contains four or six equally spaced helicopter style blades. Though this concept was introduced about 100 years ago, the materials and technology have been available only recently to bring it into reality.

Cyclocopters have the ability to extensively survey at the time of natural disasters and accomplish risk assessment. Cyclocopters can be viewed as an aerial paddleboat, having two or four cycloidal rotors. The rotors mix the air into vortices, forming lift, thrust and control. 

Cyclocopter

Each rotor has multiple aerofoils, where pitch can be balanced to pass the cyclocopter in any direction perpendicular to the cyclorotor. Hence the aerodynamics is similar to that of a dragonfly.

USA is undergoing research on cyclocopter at the University of Maryland, Texas A&M University and the University of California, Berkley, a part of the Micro Autonomous Systems and Technology (MAST) programme funded by the US Army, and under the Distributed and Collaborative Intelligent Systems and Technology (DCIST) programme.

Parts of cyclocopter

In the past 10 years, fully functional cyclocopters whilst reducing the size and weight from 500 g to just 29 g have been developed. The next step in their evolution involves further miniaturisation and optimisation.

A general concept is the formation of an advanced network of drones with different capabilities. In search and rescue operations at the time of natural disasters, cyclocopters will quickly scour the disaster area, including inaccessible areas, alerting authorities or communicating with larger ambulance drones which could provide survivors with necessities or even airlift them to safety. At the time of bushfires, a network of stabile cyclocopters can detect ignition points that are at risk.

The military application presented by the MAST research group also concentrates on securing the lives, with the motivation of drones being capable to fly ahead of military troops looking over ridges and embankments to ensure the safety of soldiers.

It is useful for the insurance industry, allowing rapid assessment of risky and contaminated premises. From a perils standpoint, tiny cyclocopters can be used to approach damaged areas, and their stability and coordination would promote for quick and perfect mapping of disaster relief areas.

Watch a video of MAST research groups’ latest cyclocopter: