Introducing SwapStop

Thursday, January 16, 2020

SwapStop is a fourth-year design project, which is an eight-month long cumulative project by Mechatronics Engineering students at the University of Waterloo. The SwapStop team comprises of four such students: Will Clark, Tom Meredith, Geoff Spielman, and Will Thibault. The idea for this project came from the team members' love of all things robotic and autonomous, and seeks to help make co-ordinated swarms of multirotor drones practical for extended use for the first time.

Left to Right: Will Clark, Will Thibault, Geoff Spielman, Tom Meredith.

Modern drone swarms have seemingly limitless potential for agricultural surveying, infrastructure inspection, search and rescue, and countless other applications, however short flight times make sustained operations impractical. SwapStop solves this problem using an autonomous drone battery swapping station that brings continuous drone operations to the skies for the first time. SwapStop features a platform allowing a drone to autonomously land, receive a fresh battery, and take off within a blazing 30 second window. Intelligent power management ensures a fresh battery is always ready to go.

Rendering of the SwapStop system Early design CAD render of the SwapStop system.

In this render, the landing platform for the drone is located in the upper-left, featuring mechanical guides to help position the drone's legs. Underneath the platform there is a stacked array of battery chargers, which prepare the LiPo batteries in preparation for use on a drone. The vertical elevator includes a pair of actuating arms, one waiting ready to remove the old battery from the drone, and the other one standing prepared with a fully-charged replacement.

Animation of the battery swapping process, based on an early CAD design of the SwapStop system.

The design of SwapStop has been an iterative process beginning in September of 2019, and as of January 2020, construction of a working prototype is well underway. This website and its associated blog will document the major development milestones from here on out, including cool solutions to problems involving electrical, software, mechanical and controls systems. This project will be showcased at the Mechatronics Engineering Fourth Year Design Symposium, on campus at the University of Waterloo in March of 2020.

Watch this space.