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Nine men stand in a row. Two are holding large, spherical mesh robots.

The Revolute Robotics team at the September 28, 2021, Tech Launch Arizona I-Squared Awards. From left to right: Richard Lu, Steven Olson, Nate Punla, Sahand Sabet, Collin Taylor, Daniel Kaitel, Carlos Ramirez, Roarke Bradley and Charles Penny. (Photo: Revolute Robotics)

UArizona Student’s Flying Robots Startup Takes Off

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UArizona Student’s Flying Robots Startup Takes Off

Nov. 29, 2021
Graduate student's research led to an invention that’s now become the foundational technology for Revolute Robotics.

Imagine an autonomous drone that flies, rolls, and explores confined and complex spaces without fear of collision damage, and is so energy efficient that it operates up to 10 times longer than a standard drone. Sahand Sabet, PhD, who was working towards his degree at the time in the University of Arizona College of Engineering, has developed this very technology. Looking like a high-tech mesh ball, the robot that Sabet and his team have created can transition between buzzing through the air and rolling on the ground, giving it not only unmatched mobility in confined spaces, but also durability and efficiency, the latter resulting from the physics fact that rolling requires much less energy than flight.  

“We were looking to solve challenging confined space inspection problems across a variety of industries,” said Sabet. “My dissertation focuses on dynamics modeling, control, path planning and design optimization of hybrid rolling and flying robots.” 

With the support of entrepreneurship and innovation experts from across the UArizona, Sabet and his team have developed a series of prototypes, protected the intellectual property for the invention, and launched a startup company, Revolute Robotics, to bring it all to the market. 

While Sabet’s PhD research focused on solving problems in engineering, he is passionate about pursuing areas of business that open pathways for translating those innovations to the marketplace, such as product management, fund raising, and talent acquisition. 

In 2020, Sabet and his team learned of a Student Innovation Challenge being sponsored by Tech Launch Arizona, the commercialization arm of the UArizona. Through the challenge, the office offered funding to help student inventors advance their ideas towards market readiness. Sabet submitted their proposal and was awarded funding to develop a prototype. 

He co-founded Revolute with Collin Taylor, who graduated in 2021 from the Eller College of Management with a double major in finance and entrepreneurship. The team also includes undergraduate engineering student Steven Olson, mechanical engineering undergraduate Roark Bradley, engineering undergraduate Nate Punla, and mechanical engineering and computer science undergraduate Richard Lu. Each brings a unique expertise to the team, from flight control to materials to fabrication to entrepreneurship. 

“We’re working hard to build on everyone’s strengths,” Taylor said of his team. “We’ve spent the last two months getting everyone working on something that both benefits the team and allows them to work on something they’re passionate about.”