Home' Scoop : Scoop 52 Contents It s a matter of life and death...
Criminals take hostages after a botched
bank job. Holed up in an industrial yard,
they demand passage to freedom while
keeping police at bay with volleys of gunfire. Pinned
down, police desperately need to know more about
what is happening before making their move.
Enter the CyberQuad (pictured above), a tiny
aerial robot that can silently sneak in close and
relay valuable intelligence via real-time video links
to the police command post.
It seems like something out of a Tom Clancy
novel but not only is the CyberQuad real, it is the
brainchild of a Curtin University of Technology
graduate and made right here in Perth.
Joshua Portlock, 25, came up with the concept
while completing his Mechatronics Engineering
degree. He began to look at the concept of a quad-
rotor-powered "hovering platform" that could carry
a camera for commercial tasks such as aerial inspec-
tions or law enforcement and military surveillance.
"There are big limitations with using helicop-
ters or aircraft as aerial camera platforms; you can t
fly below 400ft and if you do using a helicopter
there are safety issues. Then there is the cost
involved (choppers can cost up to $1000 an
hour)," says Joshua, who wanted to design some-
thing a lot simpler, sturdier and more affordable
than existing miniature radio-controlled craft.
His concept, dubbed CyberQuad, got the at-
tention of Bibra Lake company Cyber Technology,
which was already producing much bigger, fixed
wing UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) and attract-
ing interest and orders from around the world.
CyberQuad, which costs around $20,000 for
the basic model, flies on four counter-rotating
enclosed fans, enabling it to safely operate near
people and urban environments. It can stay
airborne for up to 40 minutes, fly at 70kmh and
transmit video images from a kilometre away.
The machine s operator can even don a special
pair of glasses and see exactly what the Cyber-
Quad s camera can see -- very Matrix-like indeed.
The quadrotor concept has been around, says
Joshua, since 1904 but what makes CyberQuad
special is its active stability control technology.
A normal helicopter has a special stabiliser that
helps keep the machine in level flight.
CyberQuad s fan speeds are individually
controlled and inertial sensors mean it is almost
impossible to "flip" the craft.
Cyber Technology operational support manager
Eric Pearson says although police and security
services are a natural fit with the technology, the
level of interest from commercial operators has
"We ve had orders from Estonia, North Africa
and the US -- the country that invented the UAV
-- but companies in forestry, real estate and utilities
are also interested. An Italian company wants one
to document real estate of castles and a company
in Mexico wants one to cover a sporting event."
In Perth, a CyberQuad hovered over a recent
Black Eyed Peas concert for a video feed of the
audience directed onto screens onstage. And, in a
world first, a CyberQuad was used to check out the
damaged West Atlas oil rig in the Timor Sea, ensuring
it was safe for inspectors to go aboard.
Eric says the technology incorporates systems,
such as cameras and sen-
sors, from six other local
companies, making it a truly
innovative WA product. As
for Joshua (right), not only
did he have the thrill of see-
ing his concept come to life,
he is now busy helping
realise its commercial
possibilities as Cyber
Tech s CyberQuad
The sky is literally the limit for the ingenious flying
CyberQuad, brainchild of Curtin University graduate
Joshua Portlock. text norman burns « images courtesy Joshua Portlock
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