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At this point we all know the drone industry is blowing up, especially here in North Dakota. North Dakota State University (NDSU) students Scott Wheeler and Alex Sinclair are tapping into that industry with their new drone technology, a multi-axial rotor actuation system. The project, which they are presenting as part of the NDSU Innovation Challenge, is called SkyHawk Technologies – and right now they’re at the head of the game.

“As far as with use with drones, there are no similar systems like this,” Sinclair said.

drone technology

Sinclair (left) and Wheeler (right) pose with their SkyHawk prototype.

Drone technology that increases flexibility and control

By having the ability to move in multiple directions, SkyHawk’s multi-axial rotors are designed to be much more flexible than your average drone rotor. This gives drone pilots more control when flying, said Sinclair, who is also a stress engineer at UTC Aerospace Systems.

“We came up with the idea as more of a revolutionary transportation platform,” he said. “Simply stated, it increases capabilities.”

According to Wheeler and Sinclair, these rotors would be especially valuable for having stability when taking photos or video from a drone (and the FAA has approved commercial use of drones in the film and television industry).

The SkyHawk system has been in the makings for about a year already, and a primitive first prototype has been built. But now the two are currently working on a second prototype, which they claim will be “competitive with mainstream drones and multi-rotors in the areas of cost, reliability, and flight time.”

Long term, they said, they hope to market this second prototype as a standalone multi-rotor system primarily for use with quadcopters.

drone technology

A quadcopter UAS. Photo © Doodybutch, license CC BY-SA 3.0

Be sure to catch SkyHawk and the other 23 teams participating in the NDSU Innovation Challenge next week: they will be presenting an oral presentation on February 25 for the final round of judging. The next day, on February 26 from 11:30 to 1:00 PM at the Fargodome, the final winners will be presented awards. The winning teams will walk away with a combined total of $20,000.

Register here for the Awards Luncheon – lunch is free!

Unless otherwise noted photos courtesy of Marisa Jackels.

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Marisa Jackels