19 February 2022

Gizmodo: “This Working Quadcopter Drone was built using Leonardo da Vinci’s 500-Year-Old Sketches”

A team of engineers at the University of Maryland used da Vinci’s sketches to create a functional drone for a flight design contest (via CNET). Called Crimson Spin, the device is a small, unmanned quadcopter drone with wings inspired by da Vinci’s “aerial screw” design, which used the concept of an Archimedes’ screw to push against air in order to obtain flight.

The drone has four corkscrew-shaped wings made of plastic, but instead of having someone hand spin (or pump) them as da Vinci proposed, these wings are powered by batteries and electric motors. Much like today’s drones, this creation relies on small changes to propeller speed to tilt one direction or the other. Creating a single-shaft design as seen in da Vinci’s sketches would have been far more complex and required some of the technology used in modern helicopters.

We might not be flying around on a 530-year-old helicopter design, but this project comes as the use of VTOL, or vertical take-off and landing, aircraft have gained interest for their potential ability to deliver packages or be used as aerial taxis. The unique aerodynamics of Crimson Spin addresses a few of the many challenges faced by VTOLs in that it produces less downwash and would likely be quieter than conventional propellers.

Phillip Tracy

Fascinating that such old concepts could become tangible technologies! The shape and size of the propellers seem to make them quite inconvenient though, especially if scaled up enough to lift a person…

Crimson Spin: A New Take on da Vinci’s “Aerial Screw”

Of course, this might be a good moment to look back on the flying cars enthusiasm that swept over Silicon Valley a couple of years back – and realize that little concrete progress has been accomplished. One of the quotes from an article in 2016 envisaged incredible progress in the next 5 to 10 years – by my count 5 years already passed, so… I guess he might have to extend that deadline.

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