SDRD drone “valet” significantly extends small drone range

The 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster prompted an immediate need for measurements to be taken in the disaster area — a need which posed two problems. First, the area was far too dangerous for any humans to take the measurements on-site themselves, and second, the impacted area was larger than most drones’ range.

These two problems quickly raised a new question: How do you use a small drone to gather data from outside its limited flight range?

An NNSS Site-Directed Research and Development (SDRD)-funded team, currently led by Andrew Davies and composed of team members from the Special Technologies Laboratory and the Remote Sensing Laboratories, has been working on that question, and has come up with a solution: Use a second, larger drone to deliver the smaller drone to the operational area. The complexities involved in this simple-sounding solution may surprise you.

Watch the video to learn about some of the obstacles SDRD had to overcome while working toward that solution, and also get a first look at the drone delivery process.