In high risk situations like natural disasters and catastrophes, drones are positioning themselves as highly useful elements due to their ability to reach places that would pose great danger to humans. The young mechanical engineer Przemyslaw Kornatowski has specialized in giving these flying robots the necessary abilities to be of help in this type of sensitive operation. To this end, Kornatowski has developed a system that protects them from collisions in cluttered environments, and is working on the design of foldable cargo drones.
“The most popular drones are quadcopters, but these are difficult to maneuver inside buildings since any impact with an obstacle affects their balance”, Kornatowski explains. The engineer claims that this problem is usually solved by equipping the drone “with very precise position sensors, which adds weight as well increasing the amount of data processing by the computer”. In the face of such inconveniences, Kornatowski advocates for a different approach: “Wrap them in a protective structure”.
Thus GimBall was born, a drone safeguarded in the interior of a spherical cage which is anchored through a gimbal, a system with two circumferences which stabilize the robot. With this design not only is the drone protected from impacts, but it can also roll across surfaces which facilitates its path through narrow passageways.
This makes GimBall an ideal candidate to penetrate collapsed or at risk buildings to perform reconnaissance missions, circumstances in which it is too risky to send a human rescue crew without precise information regarding the situation.
Kornatowski´s master´s thesis at the Warsaw University of Technology (Poland) was centered precisely on the development of remote-controlled, rolling spheres. When he was hired by the Intelligent Systems Laboratory at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, he applied this knowledge to his participation in the GimBall project. After two and a half years, his colleague Adrien Briod founded the company Flyability to further the development and commercialization of this project, at which time Kornatowski disassociated himself from the project to initiate a new development stream.
Kornatowski is currently working at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne on the development of foldable drones. There are situations, like major earthquakes or floods, which render the existing access infrastructures in the affected area useless, which makes the transport of supplies to inaccessible areas even more difficult. “A cargo drone could be rather voluminous itself, which is an inconvenience in terms of transporting the drone to the area where it will be required”, the engineers reasons. For this purpose he has created a prototype of a cargo robot which can be folded up, allowing it to be easily transported and unfolded when required.
The vicepreseident of the management committee at BNP Paribas Poland, Jaromir Pelczarski, jury member for MIT Technology Review´s Innovator Under 35 Poland awards, values the successes already obtained by the projects initiated by Przemyslaw Kornatowski, and considers that this young engineer deserves greater recognition.