The first aeronautical invention that I wanted to talk about is more of a neat and impressive novelty than a creation that will forever change the aerospace industry, but nevertheless I thought it was worth highlighting.
Around a year and a half ago, the world’s first spherical flying machine was developed. It is remote controlled and similar to a helicopter in that there is a main propeller that provides lift when taking off, but the entire contraption is surrounded by rings that provide a spherical exoskeleton about 16 inches in diameter. It also has similarities to an airplane’s control surfaces in the form of wings that provide lift when the machine pitches sideways to fly forward. These wings and the propeller may make it seem like a simple combination of a plane and a helicopter, but the design is much more creative than that.
Its most exciting features are not related to its performance or agility. Rather, most of the hype about this invention comes from the potential applications that would be made possible by the spherical apparatus on the outside of the machine. Unlike any other helicopter or aircraft in the world, the spherical flying machine can literally run into the ground, walls, or other flying objects without crashing. In the video debut, the demonstrator shows this by swatting at the machine while it is in flight. The spherical exoskeleton protects the propeller and wings from coming into contact with anything while the three on-board gyro sensors keep it stable in flight during a collision. Another couple fantastic features that this design allows is the ability to roll around on the ground in a desired direction and the ability to fly while staying in contact with a wall, both of which are very impressive and completely original as far as I know.
The only somewhat annoying thing about this creation is that it was invented by the Japanese Defense Ministry, not the U.S. I am not entirely sure what Japan plans to use this technology for, but I imagine that it could be the basis for a whole new style of unmanned drone technology that could go places that obviously no other drones could go. I wish the U.S had been able to invent something like this first, solely for bragging rights, but regardless it is still very impressive that somebody was able to invent an entirely new design for a flying object. That level of creativity is not something that you see every day.
Here is the link if you wish to watch the actual video demonstration of the “spherical flying machine”: