Drone propellors are great at slicing fingers — this $20 sensor prevents that

We love quadcopters and the plethora of things they can be used for, from high-quality filming to deliveries. However, you don’t have to be a tech expert to be aware of the potential risks posed by flying drones propelled by spinning rotor blades. Should drones truly become the mainstream technologies they could be, it’s going to be important to find ways of ensuring they play nice with their surroundings.

That’s where a new project from researchers at the University of Queensland in Australia, comes into play. They have developed a $20 sensor add-on which will stop a drone’s rotors if your fingers get too close to the blade — and do so within just 0.06 seconds.

“The safety rotor is an additional piece of technology added to a quadcopter drone’s rotors to allow dangerous rotor strikes to be detected and mitigated before they cause injury,” Dr. Paul Pounds, a researcher on the project, told Digital Trends. “When a rotor gets close to a person or object, a passively spinning plastic hoop touches first, causing the hoop to slow down or stop. By measuring the hoop speed with an optical sensor, we can detect the impending collision and apply a special electro-dynamic braking technique that uses the motor’s stored magnetic field energy to slow and stop itself extremely rapidly.”

sensor protect fingers from drones photo 2018 05 28 18 32 09

The add-on doesn’t add much weight or cost to the drone and unlike other safety solutions — such as a surrounding cage — it doesn’t compromise maneuverability or endurance. “We are eager to see them put into use to prevent injuries, especially to children,” Pounds continued. “People mistake quadcopters as toys, when really the larger ones can be quite dangerous. As such, children are overrepresented as victims of rotor blade injury and we want to put a stop to it.”

In addition, he noted that the sensor could help protect both drones and their surroundings from damage. For example, a drone carrying out inspection of sensitive equipment could be easily fitted with the technology.

“We are very eager to collaborate with commercial developers of drones to incorporate the technology into their products,” Pounds continued. “We would prefer that this safety equipment comes baked in from the get-go, rather than as an add-on, but we have also considered producing them so that people can add protection to existing aircraft. Eventually, we would like to see this technology become standard on all hobbyist quadcopters — like a seatbelt for drones.”

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Write music with your voice, make homemade cheese

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!

Audi’s traffic light information system shows the challenges facing V2X tech

Audi’s traffic light information system is among the first commercial applications of potentially game-changing V2X tech. So how does it work in the real world? We spent a few days getting stuck at red lights to find out.
Product Review

The Nissan Rogue is smart, handsome, and practical. What’s not to love?

Year after year, Nissan’s Rogue compact crossover is a consistent best-seller, outpacing Honda’s CR-V, and even Toyota’s mighty RAV4. We looked for the reasons why people love the 2019 Nissan Rogue, and found them.
Smart Home

Which Instant Pot is best? Whether cooking for 1 or 9, here are the best options

Instant Pots are perfect home cooks who love versatility in the kitchen, and for those who like to prepare quick and easy meals. Check out our picks for the best Instant Pots.
Emerging Tech

Mind-bending model shows Venus isn’t our nearest neighbor — it’s Mercury

Every textbook and table on the internet agrees -- the closest planet to Earth is Venus. But a new mathematical model shows that this is wrong. In fact, the planet closest to us on average is Mercury.
Emerging Tech

Desk lamps take on a new task by converting their light to power

What if we could charge devices using light from indoor sources like desk lamps? A group of scientists working on a technology called organic photovoltaics (OPVs) aim to do just that.
Emerging Tech

A.I.-generated text is supercharging fake news. This is how we fight back

A new A.I. tool is reportedly able to spot passages of text written by algorithm. Here's why similar systems might prove essential in a world of fake news created by smart machines.
Emerging Tech

Body surrogate robot helps people with motor impairments care for themselves

A team from Georgia Tech has come up with an assistant robot to help people who have severe motor impairments to perform tasks like shaving, brushing their hair, or drinking water.
Emerging Tech

New Hubble image displays dazzling Messier 28 globular cluster

Messier 28 is a group of stars in the constellation of Sagittarius, located 18,000 light-years from our planet. Thousands of stars are packed tightly together in this sparkling image.
Emerging Tech

Cosmic dust bunnies: Scientists find unexpected ring around Mercury

A pair of scientists searching for a dust-free region near the Sun have made an unexpected discovery: a vast cosmic dust ring millions of miles wide around the tiny planet Mercury.
Emerging Tech

Take a dip in the Lagoon Nebula in first image from SPECULOOS instrument

The European Southern Observatory has released the first image collected by their new SPECULOOS instrument, and it's a stunning portrait of the Lagoon Nebula, a swirling cloud of dust and gas where new stars are born.
Emerging Tech

Robot assistants from Toyota and Panasonic gear up for the Tokyo Olympics

Japan plans to use the 2020 Olympics to showcase a range of its advanced technologies. Toyota and Panasonic are already getting in on the act, recently unveiling several robotic designs that they intend to deploy at the event.
Emerging Tech

Racing to catch a flight? Robot valet at French airport will park your car

Hate searching for parking at the airport when you need to catch a plane? Startup Stanley Robotics recently unveiled a new outdoor automated robotic valet system. Here's how it works.

Bags with brains: Smart luggage and gadgets are making travel smoother

The bag you use to tote your stuff can affect the experience of any trip. In response, suitcases are wising up, and there are now options for smart luggage with scales, tracking, and more. Here are our favorite pieces.