Autonomous Soaring Project UAV Cloud Swift
Hawks and eagles glide on currents of rising warm air called thermals to extend their flight time without needing more fuel. NASA aerospace engineer Michael Allen and a team of engineers working on the Autonomous Soaring Project at Dryden Flight Research Center have succeeded in extending the range of small unmanned air vehicles (UAVs) by programming them to autonomously soar on thermals.
(Michael Allen launches UAV by hand)
During the test, the software programmed into the 15-pound motor-glider's autopilot flew the aircraft on a pre-determined racetrack over the northern portion of Rogers Dry Lake at Edwards Air Force Base until it detected an updraft. Once the aircraft started to rise on the current, the engine automatically shut off and the aircraft circled to stay within the convective lift resulting from the thermal or updraft.
Did it work? According to the researchers, the small UAV added 60 minutes to its endurance by soaring autonomously. Nicknamed Cloud Swift after a bird known for feeding on insects found in rising air masses, the modified model sailplane gained an average altitude in 23 updrafts of 565 feet, and in one strong thermal ascended 2,770 feet.
"The flights demonstrated that a small UAV can mimic birds and exploit the free energy that exists in the atmosphere," Allen stated. "We have been able to gather useful and unique data on updrafts and the response of the aircraft in updrafts. This will further the technology and refine the algorithms that are used."
(Tony Frackowiak prepares the sailplane)
Science fiction writers have been using UAVs for surveillance for a generation or more. In his excellent 1980 science/fantasy novel Changeling, Roger Zelazny describes small, autonomous surveillance craft called 'tracer-birds' that were also able to detect and ride air currents:
The dark birdforms dotted the mountaintops like statues of prehistoric beasts, wings outspread. Had there been an eye to observe them, it might not even have noted their minute, tropism-like pursuit of the sun across the sky as they recharged their batteries for the night's flight.
...they stirred, almost simultaneously, as if shaken by a sudden breeze. They began to flex their wings.
Soon, one by one, they dropped from the heights, caught the air, rose, found their way, found their patterns, resumed their journey...
(Read more about Roger Zelazny's tracer-birds)
If you are interested in what it might feel like to be surveilled by a bird-like UAV, read about Little Bird, from Darwin's Children, a recent novel by Greg Bear.
Take a look at an extremely cool, lightweight bird-like UAV in Robotic Bird Has USAF Flocking. Read more about NASA research on extending UAV endurance. Thanks to Tariq Malik for contributing the story tip.
Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 10/6/2005)
Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.
| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |
you like to contribute a story tip?
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add
Comment/Join discussion ( 3 )
Related News Stories -
IJOP Integrated Joint Operations Platform China's Minority Report?
'All day long the idiots babbled, imprisoned in their special high-backed chairs...'
Kuri Robot Roams Your Home, Taking Pictures
'Small devices with cameras and sound equipment which could move freely...'
Nuclear Drones Could Fly For Years
'I sent my eyes on their rounds and tended my gallery of one hundred-thirty changing pictures...' - Roger Zelazny, 1966.
China's Drone Fleet Flies In Formation
'Programmed to hang... in a hexagonal grid pattern.' - Neal Stephenson, 1995.
Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!)
is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for
the Invention Category that interests
you, the Glossary, the Invention
Timeline, or see what's New.
IBM's Grain Of Sand Computer
'Our ancestors... thought to make the very sand beneath their feet intelligent...'
Liquid Metal Shape-Changing 'Soft Robotics'
'A mimetic poly-alloy... 'What the hell does that mean?''
The Hammock Caravan And Italo Calvino's Octavia
'Now I will tell you how Octavia, the spider-web city, is made.'
Super-Resolution Microscopy Provides '4D' Views
View the magnified interior of living cells.
Have I Seen The Tesla Roadster Story Before?
'Only it wasn't a vessel. It was an automobile...'
Watch 'Do You Trust This Computer' For Free Today
Thanks for making this available, Elon.
Self-Driving Car Ticketed
This just missed making my day.
Elon Musk Tweets Versions Of Clarke's Operation Cleanup
'Fortunately, the old orbital forts were superbly equipped for this task.'
Burner Generates Temporary Phone Numbers
'Interesting phone system he's got, by the way...'
Walmart’s Autonomous Robot Bees
Everyone loves bees.
EA Created AI That Taught Itself To Play Battlefield
Harmless fun for computer scientists.
Is Teleportation A Death Sentence?
'A long trail of dead, he thought, left across the stars...'
New Brain Scanner Lets You Move Around
'In Bob Arctor's living room his thousand dollar custom-quality cephscope crafted by Altec...'
Can An Entire Brain Be Simulated In A Computer?
'The miles of relays and photocells had given way to the spongy globe of platinum iridium about the size of the human brain.'
Physicists Try To Turn Light Into Matter
If E=mc squared, then... m=E/c squared!
Save Your Brain's Connectome, Upload Yourself Elsewhere
'You've got remote storage. How regular is the update?'
More SF in the News Stories
More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories