November 30th, 2018

Dynamic Quadcopter Cage

An exercise in project scoping, iterative design, and surprising outcomes.

For our IGEN 230 project course, we invented a protective spherical cage for most recreational quadcopter UAVs from that protects them from mid-air collisions, crash landings from significant heights and obstacles introduced by flying in close quarters. However, at the start, those weren't the purposes we had in mind.

Beyond just being a technical capstone course, IGEN 230 had an entrepreneurial portion that encouraged us to invent a marketable product to be presented at UBC's annual Design and Innovation Day in 2018. We decided to market our design as a drone gamification system that allowed recreational users to "drone wrestle" with friends in the sky, and play tag with a set of LEDs connected to magnetic reed switches around the cage.

During the event, however, it was rightly pointed out to us that we hadn't considered nearly all the possible applications for our "universal drone cage". In fact, we were likely underselling it by only marketing it as a Drone Sports accessory. What about drones that need to fly in close quarters for maintenance checks, or outdoors where they're constantly at risk of getting tangled in branches? Doesn't a cage help with crash landings due to battery death or other spontaneous failures? We'd unknowingly created something better than what we'd planned.

Highlight reel

Fun facts

  • The cage can be easily mounted using a high-tension Velcro rig around the midsection of a quadcopter.
  • Unsung hero of this prototype: the fishing swivel! It allows the cage to spin freely around the drone while it's in flight, minimizing flight path alterations due to sideswipes.
  • We ended up making two models of this cage: one using carbon fiber, and one our of bamboo. The carbon fiber cost a fortune, and didn't work any better than the $3 bamboo did. Who knew that more expensive doesn't always mean better? Lesson learned.

Full Technical Report