Ionocraft Drone Powered By Electrohydrodynamic Thrust

Everybody loves teeny, tiny drones, but most of them are either of the biomimic sort that utilize flapping wings. or buzzy quadcopters. There is another way!


Electrohydrodynamic (EHD) thrusters, sometimes called ion thrusters,* use a high strength electric field to generate a plasma of ionized air. The ions (mostly positively charged nitrogen molecules) are drawn toward a negatively charged grid, and along the way, they smack into neutral air molecules and impart momentum to them, which is where the EHD thrust comes from.

This is the ionocraft, currently under development at UC Berkeley. It’s tiny— just 2 cm x 2 cm, weighing 30 mg, plus a 37-mg IMU (although power is supplied through a tether). At small scales, the lack of moving parts becomes a real asset, because you don’t have to worry about figuring out how to scale mechanical things like transmissions down beyond a point where it will be really frustrating at best and impossible at worst. Including its IMU payload, the ionocraft was able to take off and hover with an input of 2,000 volts at just under 0.35 mA.

(Via Penny-Sized Ionocraft Flies With No Moving Parts.)

Science fiction fans may recall the tiny aerostat monitors from Neal Stephenson's The Diamond Age, almond-sized drones that hung in the air.

Read about an assortment of similar devices performing in unison:

  - COTS Scout: Team Building Robot
  - Nano Quadrotors Form Stephenson's Dog Pod Grid
  - Autonomous UAV Surveillance Swarm
  - Flyfire Micro-Helicopter Display
  - Improve MAVs By Studying Bees In Flight
  - Largest Micro-Drone Swarm Release Successful
  - Drone Catches Drone! In Japan
  - Biggest Drone Swarm Sets World Record
  - Drone 100, Coordinated Drone Performance Team
  - China's Drone Fleet Flies In Formation
  - Crazyflie Drone Swarm Technology
  - Slaughterbot AI KIller Quadcopter Drones
  - Poland Starts With 1000 Warmate 'Suicide Drones'

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 2/5/2019)

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