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Newest drone to fly, swim and drive during missions

drone-sandia-multi-modal_siMove over, lightweight flying robots! The drone of the future is currently being developed at a government lab, and if all goes as planned it will do much more than just soar through the sky on its own.

While the United States continues to consider the merits behind  its overseas weaponized drone program and efforts to allow  surveillance unmanned aerial vehicles sail through domestic  airspace, Sandia National Laboratories has released a video  showing off a conceptual design meant to make the traditional UAV  look like a thing of the past.

Sandia’s “Multi-Modal Vehicle Concept” is still being ironed out,  but ideally scientists hope that they’ll be able to soon deploy  an unmanned craft capable of flying, swimming, driving and even  hopping like a frog across any type of terrain or obstacle it may  encounter.

Independently, a number of autonomous and semi-autonomous  vehicles are already capable of seemingly everything under the  sun. If this latest endeavor works out accordingly, however,  Sandia will have its hands on a small vessel capable of  traversing air, land and water. That means a single drone could  be launched from a random station, soar through the sky on its  own only to land in a river, navigate to another location and  then pick itself up out of the water and walk to a site where it  could collect intelligence. After all, the types of drones  currently included in the American military’s arsenal involve  unmanned craft that can kill a target for thousands of feet away,  snoop on suspects using infrared cameras or sniff chemicals using  state-of-the-art sensors.

The laboratory says its Intelligent Systems, Robotics, &  Cybernetics (ISRC) office has been slaving over a way to combine  the different types of drones currently available in order to  perfect this Multi-Modal Vehicle Concept, and they’ve already  built and conducted testing on conceptual designed to try and  hammer out the kinks needed to produce a fully functioning craft  capable of doing more on its own than the average human.

Imagine a mission where you have to covertly fly into an  area, traverse through water, across land and overcome obstacles  along the way,” Sandia says on its website. “ISRC has  built and conducted limited testing on conceptual hardware, and  while the concept may appear to be off in the distant future, our  testing has shown that this concept could soon be a reality.”


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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