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The “Loon Copter” Drone is Part Helicopter, Part Submarine

One if they come by land, two if they come by sea! No idea how many if it’s a drone that can fly through the air and through water.

Drones are skyrocketing in popularity, and as they do, engineers and tinkerers are making sure they can handle any challenge thrown at them. They’re being built smaller, larger, hardier, and sometimes with nets to shoot capture other drones. And as the technology progresses, they’ll naturally end up doing whatever they can and going wherever they can, which now includes swimming in water.

The “Loon Copter,” built by Dr. Osamah Rawashdeh, engineer Sean Simpson, and a team of graduate students at Oakland University’s Embedded Systems Research Laboratory, “is a novel multi-rotor platform capable of traditional aerial flight, on-water surface operation, and sub aquatic diving.” The project originated when Dr. Rawashdeh found that there was simultaneous interest in both underwater and aerial vehicles amongst his team of researchers, and decided to combine the two. As for its moniker, the multi-talented drone is named after the aquatic bird of the same name, which, as you’ve already guessed, can both fly and swim brilliantly.

The earliest proof-of-concept for the Loon was completed in the beginning of 2015, and now, in its third iteration, the robot is of the 10 international semifinalists taking part in the 2016 Drones for Good competition. For those of you who don’t spend tons of time in the drone zone, the Drones for Good competition, launched in 2014, is hosted by the United Arab Emirates in Dubai, and awards $1 million to the contest’s winner.

As for practical uses beyond the UAE competition, the Loon, according to Dr. Rawashdeh, could be used to track sharks and whales by spotting them aerially and then following them underwater. Below, Dr. Rawashdeh explains the origins and uses for the Loon:

What do you think about the Loon Copter and it’s aquatic-aerial duality? And what’s your best guess for where drones will go in the future? Let us know in the comments section below!

HT: Gizmag

Image: Embedded Systems Research Laboratory / Oakland University

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