Aerospace & Defense

SQUID 2.0: Autonomously-Stabilizing, Ballistically Launched Drone

Aircraft that can launch ballistically and then convert to autonomous, free-flying drones have applications in many areas, like emergency response, defense, and space exploration, where they can gather critical situational data using onboard sensors. In previous work, researchers at the California Institute of Technology  presented a proof-of-concept of SQUID, or Streamlined Quick Unfolding Investigation Drone. The manually-stabilized folding multirotor deployed from a pressurized tube mounted on a vehicle moving at speeds of up to 50 mph. Now, they present a larger, autonomously-stabilizing multirotor prototype with an onboard sensor suite, autonomy pipeline, and improved aerodynamic stability margin. This first SQUID prototype was 3 inches in diameter and the new prototype is 6 inches in diameter. The Caltech team also demonstrate autonomous transition from passive to active stabilization, confirming the multirotor's ability to autonomously stabilize after a ballistic launch in a GPS-denied environment.