The Loon Copter: A Flying Drone That Swims Underwater!

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Video of the Loon Copter for the 2016 Drones for Good Competition. The Loon Copter was selected as 1 of 10 semifinalist in the international category. The competition had received 1017 entries from 165 countries.Loon Copter is a novel multi-rotor platform capable of traditional aerial flight, on-water surface operation, and sub aquatic diving.

Image credit: Oakland University

The Loon Copter submarine drone project started in 2014 at Oakland University and is the first multi-rotor drone to successfully demonstrate flight, operation on the surface of water, as well as diving.

The Loon flies in the same fashion as any other quadcopter, and initially floats when it comes to rest on the water. It can then simply sit in one spot, or it can use its props to push itself along the surface. The real fun starts when it pumps water into its buoyancy chamber, though, causing it to sink.

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This is a proof-of-concept prototype and there is still a lot of work to be done. We are looking into extended wireless range underwater, navigation underwater, a redesign of the hull for more efficient diving, payloads for different applications, etc.

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