Robot Aircraft To Ride Thermal Air Currents

Robot aircraft have a clever new way to conserve fuel - don't use any. Thermal air currents have been providing lift to flyers since the dawn of time. Research currently underway at Roke Manor Research in Hampshire, UK, indicates that this sort of sophisticated flight can be programmed into autonomous unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Their plan is to test the idea first by using it to offer guidance to pilots of gliders.

Here's how it works. An on-board camera takes video of the surrounding sky; software is used to analyze the video, looking for gray, dome-shaped clouds that are formed by rapidly rising hot air. The system is also able to integrate real-time weather forecasts and simulations.

When the system is automated, it should enable a UAV to pilot a course that transverses as many thermal air currents as possible. The resulting fuel savings is not just a way to "green" robot aircraft; it will enable longer flights by conserving a scarce resource.

The first place I read about this idea was Roger Zelazny's admirable 1980 science/fantasy novel Changeling. In the story, small, robot planes called 'tracer-birds' detect and ride air currents:

The dark birdforms dotted the mountaintops like statues of prehistoric beasts, wings outspread...

...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)

These science-fictional robot planes were also solar-powered.

If the idea of autonomous robot planes making use of thermal air currents intrigues you, take a look at another ongoing research effort - the Cloud Swift Autonomous Soaring Project.

Via Robot aircraft will ride thermals to save fuel.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 8/21/2008)

Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.

| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |

Would you like to contribute a story tip? It's easy:
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add it here.

Comment/Join discussion ( 0 )

Related News Stories - (" Surveillance ")

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.

RFID Chipped Employees Of Three Square Market
'About a third of the people in Manhattan have replaced their Freedom Card with a radio-frequency chip...' - John Twelve Hawks, 2015.

SkEye Amazing Israeli Gigapixel Drone
'An eye that could not only see, but fly...' - Manly Wade Wellman, 1938.

 

Google
  Web TechNovelgy.com   

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Current News

A 'Genuine Nanorobotic Production Factory'
'Microscopic machinery, smaller than ants, smaller than pins, working energetically, purposefully - constructing something...'

Neuromorphic Computer Offers Non-von Neumann Architecture
Fires faster than brain at 1/10K energy.

Evorus Your Crowd-Powered Conversational Assistant
'...the DS [Daily Schedule] was suddenly transformed into a valued confidante.'

Mealworms Food Of The Future
Get your grubs on.

Alibaba's AI May Read Better Than You
'Mike ... could accept other languages and was doing technical translating - and reading endlessly.'

Musk's Boring Flamethrower
'Skeletons in tatters. Burned by a flesh gun'

Humanity Star LEO Advertisement?
'Everyone has noticed those enormous advertisements...'

Nissan ProPILOT Slippers Are Self-Parking, Autonomous
Beyond science and fiction.

Atomristors - Atomic Memristors - Using Thin Nanomaterials
'I could almost feel those little tunnel junction neuristors working, forming their own interconnections as I operated it.'

Bigelow Prepares Inflatable Lunar Hotel
'Suddenly, hitherto unheard-of sums of money became available for investment in civilian orbital stations.'

Drunk Driver Of Tesla Claims Autopilot Was In Charge
'Mr. Garden, you are in no condition to drive.'

Medical Exoskeleton From Cyberdyne Gets FDA Approval
It's been a long road for HAL-5; I started writing about it in 2005.

Fungi-Infused Concrete Repairs Itself
'I noticed that curious mottled knots were forming, indicating where the room had been strained and healed faultily.'

Shiftwear Display Shoes
'He unlaced her shoe and glanced at its readout.'

NASA SEXTANT First With X-Ray Nav In Space
'You need at least four beacons for an accurate fix.'

GM Introduces Cruise AV With No Steering Wheel
'How about the steering wheel?' ... 'I do not need one.'

More SF in the News Stories

More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories

Home | Glossary | Invention Timeline | Category | New | Contact Us | FAQ | Advertise |
Technovelgy.com - where science meets fiction™

Copyright© Technovelgy LLC; all rights reserved.