ROFLCOPTER is a SIX-Degree of freedom space drone: the perfect companion for astronauts. To move items and navigate successfully in zero gravity, ROFLCOPTER automatically calibrate itself knowing its relative position and orientation. Inside the spacecraft, the ROFLCOPTER uses ultrasound sensors in order to avoid obstacles and complete the task in the most efficient way. Outside it has the ability to team up with other drones to move all kinds of items using a beacon-based coordinate system.

This project is solving the ZERO GEE Bee – Your Friendly Neighborhood Drone challenge.


The ROFLCOPTER is a cuboid drone with six arms. Its symmetric structure is 50 x 50 x 50 cm and its carbon fiber body weights approximately 10 Kg. At the end of each of the six arms we find an electromagnet, four thrusters and a proximity sensor. The central body incorporates a bluetooth receiver, the ‘plasma engine’, and a radio transmitter Since autonomy is a key factor , the drone is designed to create its own navigation system: Three beacons on the spacecraft create a local ‘gps’ system, while the three beacons on three of the orthogonal arms will serve as orientation tools when moving from point to point. This will allow the ROFLCOPTER to orientate and navigate both outside and within the spacecraft. Using the proximity sensors, the ROFLCOPTER would also be able to avoid collisions with various objects, people and the spacecraft itself. This drone is programed to use two different types of propulsion. For tasks within the spacecraft, propulsion thrusters would be used, therefore just taking in air on one side and expelling it on the other side. On the outside, it uses pulsed plasma thrusters to move around. This design allows the drone to use just some of the thrusters and for a short amount of time, therefore limiting the resource consumption. Given the Tsiolkovsky rocket equation, pulsed plasma thrusters were chosen for the ROFLCOPTER as they minimise fuel consumption. These thrusters give an augmented sensitivity to the ROFLCOPTER’s flight pattern. Considering an ideal zero gravity context where energy is almost preserved, along with the Tsiolkovsky rocket equation, small regular “kicks” would be required by the ROFLCOPTER to obtain its desired velocity. Pulsed plasma thrusters were therefore chosen as the pulses allow for these small regular “kicks” whilst minimising fuel consumption. Once the relative location of an object is known (through a fairly simple ui) the drone reaches the location, grabs the object (using its magnets) and then moves it, with the help of other drones (ideally two more) when needed. The drone would then be told the relative location of the target area where the object needs to be set. Objects can be placed in a specified container irrespective of the shapes, the drone will be able to use its electromagnets to grab the container and navigate its path using the same beacon technology. The ROFLCOPTER would therefore be the ideal response to adapt the autonomous terrestrial drones to a zero-gravity, weightless environment. Its comprehensive navigation system would allow it to effectively communicate with its environment and adapt to it, enabling it to perform tasks such as moving objects, whilst its propulsion system would defy the restrictions imposed by the harsh conditions of space. The ROFLCOPTER is the cheap, easy to make, robust, resistant and a smart companion, perfect for astronauts.

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Project Information

License: GNU General Public License version 2.0 (GPL-2.0)

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Astronomical Background -
SPHERES Project Background information -
Thrusters Background Information -
Thrusters Background Information -


  • Stefano Sesia
  • Joe Frew
  • Richard Tyson
  • Victor Ajayi