What a Screwy Concept!

Aviation technology is developing at a rapid pace — especially in small unmanned air vehicles (sUAV). Some recent sUAV flights pushed the envelope by proving a concept that is, well, screwy.

I’m sure all of you have seen Leonardo da Vinci’s drawing of his aerial screw design. Back in the late 1480s, he envisioned this concept of how a person might be able to take flight.

When the Wright Brothers designed their Wright Flyer, they were not focusing on vertical flight. Their design used engine-driven propellers to push the aircraft through the air. The now-common airfoil shape of the propellers and wing created differential pressures, which allowed the aircraft to gain lift as it accelerated on the ground and then in the air.

When Igor Sikorsky took to the air in the first helicopter in 1939 (more than 450 years after da Vinci drew his aerial screw concept), he used large engine-driven rotors a tail rotor to provide stable flight. It was the same basic airfoil technology used in a different way.

Airplanes, helicopters and drones have pretty much used the same airfoil concept since the Wright Brothers' famous at Kitty Hawk — until now!

An engineering team at the University of Maryland began designing and testing the underlying technology of da Vinci’s aerial screw concept. Over the past hear and a half, team member Austin Prete and his team built Crimson Spin, an sUAV that uses da Vinci’s screw-like design powered by four electric motors. They have flown it on a few short test flights. 

At the 2022 Transformative Vertical Flight Symposium last month, Prete gave a presentation on his results to the attendees and shared the first video of Crimson Spin in flight. 

Basically,  Prete and the team designed and built an sUAV using modern materials and computer simulations based on a “screwy” concept that da Vinci envisioned more than half a century years ago!

Way to go team!

If you are interested in learning more, or to see a video of Crimson Sky in flight, you can read CNET’s article at https://www.cnet.com/news/this-drone-flies-using-da-vincis-530-year-old-helicopter-design/.

Thanks for reading!


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