Ran D. St. Clair, an electronics engineer based in California, created a drone which flies by flexing and flapping its components and floats while the wind is not even in its favor. St. Clair took his inspiration from commercial airlines. He has named his creation “Flex-Plane” based on its fluid movements as it navigates in the wind. A video of one of his test flights recently went viral on Reddit showing plane’s pterodactyl motion.
St. Clair said that work on his machine is still in progress. The drone is modeled after Boeing’s solar-powered Odysseus aircraft which is a lightweight vessel and capable of flying at altitudes of 100,000 feet for several months. St. Clair said, “This led to the idea of making the aircraft modular with flexible joints that reduce the stresses on the relatively rigid modules.” He has been tinkering with the Flex-plane concept after the successful launch of his plane. St. Clair has detailed the mechanics of his drone in an explainer video. It is a complex system which is based on simple hardware.
He said, “The planes themselves are extremely simple and inexpensive, made of hobby-grade parts and foam board.” The flight of the aircraft is made possible through the main receiver and flight transmitter. It is hooked up with wires which transfer a signal to each of the nine components. St. Clair harnessed his engineering prowess to bring the project to reality and developed a special open-source firmware called Open Aero VTOL. The system enables communication between the modules. St. Clair said, “This is only the first flight of the x9 configuration, and it is not tuned properly yet. The various flapping and oscillation modes make the video more interesting, but the goal is to make it fly smoothly and well damped, even in modest turbulence.”