If the new "Multi-Modal Vehicle Concept" is any indication, drones of the future won't be one trick ponies. Developed by the Intelligent Systems, Robotics and Cybernetics unit at Sandia National Laboratory, the unmanned vehicle transforms into a craft that can fly, swim, drive and even hop across various obstacles and terrains.
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Initially launched as an aerial vehicle, the drone can dive underwater where its wings can be operated as fins. As the craft continues to shed sections, wheels emerge to drive it ashore, where the vehicle could jump 30 feet into the air if need be.
Normally, missions on land, air and sea involve the logistical nightmare of trying to coordinate multiple teams of ground, aerial and underwater vehicles with varying communication systems. However, because their design works off one interface and can adapt to terrain, Sandia officials say the Multi-Modular Vehicle could eliminate logistical hiccups. In fact, Sandia even thinks the drone might one day carry out missions typically reserved for Special Operation forces.
"The real value added [of the Multi-Modal Vehicle] is that it allows maximum flexibility in highly complex missions without the concern over whether or not all of the vehicles are positioned just right," Jon Salton, a Sandia engineer working on the project, told Wired.
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So far, Sandia has dubbed its drone a "mature concept," meaning it's seen limited testing on conceptual hardware. In the meantime, Sandia is looking to shore up funding for a prototype and eventually get the concept off the ground. Check out this video to see what's on the drawing board.
Credit: Sandia Labs