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This Drone is Launched From a Cannon

Credit: Daniel Pastor Moreno via YouTube

Drone tech meets Ringling Brothers.

Piloting drones is fun, but if there was one element of it that can be a little tedious, it’s the takeoff process. You gotta have the right wind conditions and keep the takeoff zone clear of debris and bystanders. Who has that kind of time these days? Apparently, the folks at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory don’t, because they whipped up an elegant solution to speed up the takeoff process. And by “elegant solution,” I, of course, mean “fire it out of a cannon.”

JPL researchers have developed a new kind of drone they have dubbed the “Streamlined Quick Unfolding Investigation Drone,” or “SQUID.” I love it when an acronym comes together. In its dormant form, the SQUID kind of looks like a football, but under the hood are several powerful drone rotors. Utilizing a launching device constructed from an old baseball pitcher, the SQUID shoots up into the air at 33 miles per hour, unfolding and deploying its rotors moments later. Not only can a drone of this nature be quickly deployed as necessary, it can also be shot from a moving vehicle. The researchers were able to successfully deploy the SQUID from the bed of a pickup truck moving 55 miles per hour. Such fast, adaptable deployment could be quite beneficial for soldiers or emergency responders who need a quick eye in the sky.

The researchers are currently tinkering with larger SQUID prototypes, and are even floating the idea of developing specialized versions for planetary exploration.