Drones: Supporting The Prosthetics Industry
Drones have been in the press a lot recently haven’t they? If they’re not causing total airport shutdowns, they’re pestering people in parks when they are just trying to walk their dog or enjoy a nice sandwich. The proliferation of drone technology among the masses has filtered down from the military-grade missile technology we see haunting the headlines of news overseas, via the corporate iterations we’ve seen which haven’t quite taken off the ground yet, from the likes of Amazon and Google. Airdrops have become more than a sigh of relief for desert islanders, or more often COD players, they can now do your weekly shop and spy on your neighbours in theory.
For anyone that’s seen a drone (and that’s hopefully most of you considering you need an internet connection to read this) it’s amazing to believe that what looks like a lightweight cross-shape with fans attached has the power to literally take off and carry things against the resistance of wind and rain. The answer is the revolution of c-ratings in batteries, or in other words the amount of energy that can be safely discharged per capacity of the battery. Rotor Drone magazine (no prizes for guessing their specialism) describes the benefits of larger c-ratings in batteries as thus:
This major increase in current allows us to run bigger (or more) motors in your multirotor for increased duration and/or payload-lifting capabilities. A higher C discharge rating gives us that extra ‘oomph’ we enjoy in flight, no matter the airframe.
The technological advances uncovered within drone development have had an enormously beneficial effect on the prosthetics industry and have been in part responsible for the rapid changes in the products on offer over the past decade, transforming now-rudimentary pinch grip myoelectric ‘hands’ into the multi-articulating all-singing, all-dancing (not literally…not yet anyway) devices with faster speeds and more complex grip capabilities than has ever been previously achievable.
This borrowing from neighbouring engineering industries is nothing new and there’s almost an air of mutual respect and cooperation in the wider field, for the love of the science and technology behind it and in the knowledge that we can accomplish so much more as allies for the betterment of humankind, or at least to further human understanding. In our case, those pesky drones have inadvertently supported the mobility capabilities of people with upper-body limb differences and it’s not just them. Prosthetics engineers, including us, have learned a great deal from the mechanisms in watches and the evolving technology that has been developed for them – we are generally big fans of products that can achieve a lot in small packages!
Who knows what the future may hold for prosthetics by utilising everyday tech, that we may even take for granted; we’re not saying that we’re going to be introducing a Teasmade attachment anytime soon (Americans may have to google what this is), but there are hidden capabilities in the commonplace objects of our lives that are just waiting to be discovered and we can’t wait to find out what they might be.