May 26, 2015 | By Alec

Quadcopters and drones of all shapes and sizes are a huge hit in the 3D printing community, and that’s hardly surprising. They’re simply and utterly fun, after all. But unfortunately, they can also be a bit dangerous, especially around children. Drones and quads are not the easiest things to steer, are prone to crashing and feature whirling propellers that can hurt people (and easily damage themselves in the process). All this makes it a bit of dangerous and expensive hobby.

But there is an alternative. A Pasadena, California-based start-up called Polyhelo has just launched a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo for their Nano Tornado drone, a cool device that relies on four ducted fans, rather than open propellers, as well as a sturdy plastic housing to store everything in. Not only is it much safer to operate to 3D printed drone, it is also less likely to completely break down during its inaugural flight.

As you can see in the photos and videos, this is a very compact and cool-looking device that can take a hit. And as the Polyhelo team – all former Caltech researchers with a background in unmanned aerial systems and spacecraft– argue, it has several advantages. Most importantly, of course, is its safety. It won’t cut people it comes across, nor will the propellers break during every landing – this makes it perfect for use in narrow spaces or around people.

However, they add, it’s fantastic and propeller-free design also makes transport and take off easier than ever. ‘Instantly storable and deployable, just tuck it away when you're done and it's ready to go the second that you are. Switch on to get to the action you want to capture and share,’ they write. ‘You may never take-off or land a drone on the ground again. You're free to grab and throw the Nano Tornado. No propellers = good.’

In fact, as is illustrated by the clip below, it can be treated quite roughly. ‘Throw, catch and bump it. Fly up close and personal without fear of injury from flying, breaking propellers. Crashing from hitting stuff will happen to the other guy - not you,’ the team adds. And with a decent battery life of five minutes and very easy swapping of batteries on the spot (as well as either a Polaroid Cube or Fatshark Live camera), this drone seems to be a lot of fun indeed.

Indeed, the only problem seems to be that the Nano Tornado drone currently only exists as a couple of 3D printed prototypes, and that is where crowdfunding comes in. ‘The research is done, the 3D printed prototypes are all test-flighted out, and we're ready to cut molds for plastic. The Nano-T is based around our own flight control computer and flight control software that are tuned up and ready to go,’ they write.

If they gather the necessary funds, the Polyhelo team intends to switch to a smooth injection molded plastic final product. However, to do so they need to raise $50,000 in funds to get that development going. While initially only available in black, a very good turnout will also see the creation of various color options. Interested? Go to their crowdfunding page here. A pledge of $448 will be enough for a drone with a Polaroid Cube cam, while a complete package with all options will set you back $548. Not bad for a nigh indestructible drone.



Posted in 3D Printing Applications


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Christopher wrote at 8/8/2016 12:04:57 AM:

I want 1. Where can i buy it?

Dan White wrote at 7/29/2016 9:18:17 PM:

COOL! Where do I buy on or two of these drones? Have you guys see patent 6607162 ? Dan White 3541 Ebenezer Ct. Marietta Ga. 30066-3905

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