Eye in the sky: Autonomous 3D printed car comes with scout drone surveillance (VIDEO)
The advent of inexpensive, lightweight unmanned copters means drones are no longer the only preserve of juggernaut military nations or snooping government agencies.
And it appears the flying machines might be poised to take over highways of the future, judging by a recent project to equip a cutting edge urban vehicle with a drone.
As part of a automobile design challenge, Arizona manufacturer Local Motors’ Strati - the 1,800 pound car almost entirely constructed by a 3D printer - is being modified to act as a ‘mothership’ for a quadcopter.
The upgrade to the Strati, made from carbon fiber reinforced plastic, will also be self-driving with Mouser Electronics software, and named Fly-Mode, according to a newly released update on the model.
Fly-Mode is part of the Local Motor’s ‘Essence of Autonomy’ competition, which “challenged engineers around the world” to come up with futuristic blueprints for vehicles that need little human supervision to get around.
Rhode Island native, Finn Yonkers, claimed the coveted prize last month and now his creation will leap from the design board into production, with the help of those behind the 3D printed bus called Olli.
“Yonkers imagined that, without the responsibility of driving, the riders’ drone could fly overhead and use a camera to project a bird’s eye view to the screens inside,” Local Motors say on their website.
Artwork of the Fly-Mode reveals how the drone will be able to take-off mid-drive from the back of the vehicle and then subsequently relay information to the person in the car.
Teamed with the electric vehicle’s “main processor,” the drone auto tracks the car and is actually programmed to return when its power runs out.
This exciting development has opened new possibilities for use use by ordinary commuters or even law enforcement agencies.
Inside the Fly-Mode two monitors, one of which inflates near the windscreen, provide motorists with a sky-high survey of the road ahead. Meanwhile, pneumatic suspensions underneath the seats contribute to the feeling of flying.
The steering wheel has been forsaken, with the ‘driver’ using a joystick to maneuver the drone above.
“It’s basically your eyes in the sky. You’ll be able to see what it [the drone] sees. You can look ahead, take pictures - all while the car is driving autonomously,” according to Local Motors engineer, Alex Mattioli.
The vehicle is currently under construction, but Local Motors are expected to release footage of the car in action soon.