How a 500-Year-Old Drawing Could Lead to New, Quieter Drone Design

Watch this video to see animation depicting the boundary of swirling air currents — vortices — around a propeller, color-coding each vortex based on measurements to visualize which flows generate the most upward lift force, keeping the propeller aloft and enabling detailed study of propeller physics.

“da Vinci’s visionary aerial screw—a sort of precursor to the modern helicopter—inspired our investigation. The idea was to bring historical inspiration and modern computation together to reimagine a quieter modern drone,” said Rajat Mittal , a professor of mechanical engineering at Johns Hopkins Whiting School of Engineering.