A wearable exoskeleton has been designed by researchers to control a fixed-wing drone. The suit is named FlyJacket and is designed to help beginners control a drone while making upper body gestures like spreading the arms wide. The suit is coupled with a headset to give pilots a natural feeling of flying while allowing better control and more comfort as compared to using conventional drone controls.
The FlyJacket suit has motion sensors to track the pilot’s movements. It also has a built-in arm support so the arms do not get tired while they are outstretched. The pilot has to wear a virtual reality headset to see what the drone is seeing from the front-facing camera. Flying at a constant speed provides the best results.
Users have reported that they felt more immersed in flying while wearing the suit and experienced less discomfort than when using conventional controls. The FlyJacket can fit into a backpack for easy deployment in the field. It is perfect for rescue missions. The hands of the pilot are free while controlling the drone and a handheld control could be used to tag points of interest while flying the drone. These tags could be used as map points for future flights.
A number of challenges had to be overcome to develop the suit. The first was to make sure the exoskeleton allowed freedom of movement and comfort for all body types. They are hoping to reduce the size and weight even further so it can be put on and taken off even more easily.
The tests carried out so far involved connecting the suit to drone simulation software and quadcopters set up to mimic the light dynamics of a fixed-wing drone. The results of these tests have convinced the researchers that the performance of the FlyJacket compared to that of conventional remote controls is much superior.
Some of the pilots claimed to feel dizzy but that was due to the use of VR goggles and not caused by the suit itself. In fact, using the suit decreases dizziness as compared to conventional controls. You can check you the FlyJacket in the video below: