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Rugged drone takes on professional, consumer apps

08 Jun 2015  | Julien Happich

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US-based start-up Ascent Aerosystems developed Sprite, a cylindrical shaped drone designed for professional and consumer use, which is now up on KickStarter seeking for crowdfunding.

Sprite is the feat of two brothers, Jonathan and Nathaniel Meringer, both keen climbers but also qualified aerospace engineers. They got their first idea of designing their own drone around 2010, when they couldn't find an easy to pack and rugged-enough product to withstand repetitive harsh landings in rocky and mountainous Arizona where both enjoyed finding new routes for rock-climbing.

They had once considered a quadcopter drone with a camera, but none of what they had seen on the market was compact nor tough enough to be stuffed in an equipment bag with rope and water bottles. They had their first prototypes flying in 2013 and many design iterations later, they successfully launched a campaign on KickStarter in May (still some days to go, but Sprite has already raised more than the original $200,000 goal).


Sprite comes with most of today's consumer drones features such as fully autonomous autopilot with GPS and high-definition 1080P video, but it was more engineered as a tool, with more sophisticated features such as inflight telemetry, 2-axis stabilised gimbal for video clarity, a range of up to 6km, and most importantly, all its components enclosed in a compact, rugged and water resistant airframe.

The cylindrical form factor has two purposes: it allows the blades to fold along the body when not in flight to form a tight, damage resistant package, and the same folding mechanism is used for landing from a safe altitude (a brake stops the rotors in less than 0.5s and the blades retract), letting the rugged drone drop onto whatever terrain.


Another interesting feature is the rugged push-button interface allowing for autonomous operation without an external controller, a hand-launch is enough for the drone to follow preloaded autonomous missions.

Modular by design, the new drone allows users to easily change its payload to suit a specific mission with stackable modules, and the two brothers plan to make optional components, accessories and parts available by the end of 2015.

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