When will DJI Drones incorporate Toroidal Propellers?
TL;DR – Toroidal propellers are an innovative design that saves energy and, for aerial use, potentially increase acceleration and manoeuvrability. Prototypes using DJI drones and Toroidal propellers already exist.
Aerial drones have revolutionized various industries, such as agriculture, mapping, defence, and film production. However, their use in recreational and sporting activities has also increased in recent years, with hobbyists seeking drones with improved performance, speed, and manoeuvrability. DJI is a leading company in the consumer-grade drone market, and its products have features such as obstacle avoidance, GPS location, and high-quality cameras. Despite these advancements, drone propellers have not seen much development, and there are opportunities to use toroidal propellers that enhance drone performance for sporting and recreational use.
How They Work
Toroidal propellers significantly reduce tip vortices and this increases the volume of air/water that moves in a useful direction ie through the blade rather than wasted by slipping off the edges
The toroidal propeller, one of the Lab's @RD100Awards winners, has a unique, closed-form propeller design that makes it a significantly quieter alternative to common multirotor propellers on commercial uncrewed aerial vehicles. https://t.co/hgda3NgYIz pic.twitter.com/5XkIxNVPHd
— Lincoln Laboratory (@MITLL) January 6, 2023
Toroidal propellers are unique in their design, with a circular shape for each ‘fin’. This design creates a vortex that provides an additional lift for the same power input, allowing the drone to achieve a longer battery life, quieter operation and greater manoeuvrability.
This technology probably won’t work for aeroplane jet turbines that already include design elements to stop wasted air at the fin tips.
The image below shows a standard propeller protection mechanism, if your drone has been specifically designed (not retrofitted) with something like this then the savings from toroidal props might not be as good. (IDK the exact nature of this but it will be a factor)
Toroidal propellers will almost certainly also change handling characteristics. As human controllers you can no doubt adapt to that change, however, pre-defined manufacturer algorithms such as those for obstacle avoidance might not do so well.
A few years ago my thoughts strayed to capturing drone footage of me cycling up some alpine trails. It never got any further than the thought stage!
I came across toroidal propellers by accident after ones by MIT won a global design award in 2022 (R&D 100). They were invented decades ago but it seems that they are only now approaching the point where they might start to be more widely used.
When we sometimes think that everything that could be easily invented has been, it’s uplifting (pun intended) that a simple, new 3D-printed design can make a 20% difference to a drone’s battery life with the added bonus of quieter operation.
Propellers are obviously used elsewhere and this technology could reduce fuel consumption on container ships, propeller-based planes or even your desktop PC’s fans. Of course, the militarily minded will make more lethal drones. There’s always a downside.
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