MIT Glider Lands On a Perch Like A Bird
MIT researchers have developed a foam glider that can land on a perch like a parakeet. To match this commonplace avian feat, they had to master the stall, a maneuver that requires the plane to tilt its wings back at a very sharp angle, creating a turbulent air flow that brings the plane to a near halt in mid-air. See the video below for some great slow-motion footage of the MIT glider in flight.
(MIT glider lands on perch)
To design their control system, MIT Associate Professor Russ Tedrake, a member of the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, and Rick Cory, a PhD student in Tedrake's lab who defended his dissertation this spring, first developed their own mathematical model of a glider in stall. For a range of launch conditions, they used the model to calculate sequences of instructions intended to guide the glider to its perch. "It gets this nominal trajectory," Cory explains. "It says, 'If this is a perfect model, this is how it should fly.'" But, he adds, "because the model is not perfect, if you play out that same solution, it completely misses."
So Cory and Tedrake also developed a set of error-correction controls that could nudge the glider back onto its trajectory when location sensors determined that it had deviated from it. By using innovative techniques developed at MIT's Laboratory for Information and Decision Systems, they were able to precisely calculate the degree of deviation that the controls could compensate for. The addition of the error-correction controls makes a trajectory look like a tube snaking through space: The center of the tube is the trajectory calculated using Cory and Tedrake's model; the radius of the tube describes the tolerance of the error-correction controls.
The control system ends up being, effectively, a bunch of tubes pressed together like a fistful of straws. If the glider goes so far off course that it leaves one tube, it will still find itself in another. Once the glider is launched, it just keeps checking its position and executing the command that corresponds to the tube in which it finds itself. The design of the system earned Cory Boeing’s 2010 Engineering Student of the Year Award.
The measure of air resistance against a body in flight is known as the "drag coefficient." A cruising plane tries to minimize its drag coefficient, but when it's trying to slow down, it tilts its wings back in order to increase drag. Ordinarily, it can't tilt back too far, for fear of stall. But because Cory and Tedrake's control system takes advantage of stall, the glider, when it's landing, has a drag coefficient that's four to five times that of other aerial vehicles.
I'm always impressed by research that brings the dreams of science fiction authors to life. For example, consider the biomimetic tracer-bird from Roger Zelazny's excellent 1980 novel Changeling, illustrated by Esteban Maroto. This device could easily land on a high perch to perform its surveillance duties.
"He saw the blue-bellied, gray-backed thing upon the sill overhead. It was turned as if watching them. A portion of its front end caught the sunlight and cast it down toward them... The tracer-bird followed their every step, hung upon their words..."
(From Changeling by Roger Zelazny)
See what Stanford engineers are doing on the other side of the country in Perching Project Drones Wait For You . Read more details about the perching glider at the MIT press release.
Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 10/11/2010)
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 ( 0 )
Related News Stories -
Crazyflie Drone Swarm Technology
'...Programmed to hang in space in a hexagonal grid pattern.' - Neal Stephenson, 1995.
L16 Revolutionary Optics Spells End For Ordinary DSLRs?
Time for Esper Photo Analysis, Blade Runner fans.
MIT Tunes Ions For Frictionless Surface - Superlubricity!
'My telelubricator here neutralizes the interatomic bonds the surface of any solid...' - L. Sprague de Camp, 1940.
RFly Drones Rule The Warehouse
'The wasp homed unerringly on the face of the honeycomb...' - James P. Hogan, 1979.
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.
Dubai Scorpion Police Hoverbike Ready To Pull Young Kirk Over
'Is there a problem, officer?'
HEXA Robotic Help For Plants
Then some unknown race had chanced upon the dreamers and decided to "help them out."
Korean Tesla Model S Video 'Excelsior' Is Indeed Our Motto
'Improving man by bringing him close to Nature, while they combine the sensations of coasting with the interest of seeing the country well...'
DIY Robot Shoots You In The Face
'...there were automatic guns that fired ligamine darts.'
A Bayesian Approach to Safe Imitation Learning For AIs and Robots
Um, how about that pension for the humans who serve as the models for robot behavior?
Qoobo Headless Robotic Therapy Cat Was Anne McCaffrey's Idea
'...used as surrogates in intense dependency cases.'
Autonomous Cars Talk To Each Other At MCity
'My cars talk to one another.'
PUFFER Robots - From Philip K DIck's Second Variety?
'Across the ground something small and metallic came, flashing in the dull sunlight of midday.'
Russian Space Garden
'We saw the gardens, flooded with artificial sunlight...'
Targeted Neuroplasticity Training For 'Downloading Skills'
'I know kung-fu.'
U of M's MCity To Feature Asimov's Automatobuses
Should you turn autonomous buses off?
Crazyflie Drone Swarm Technology
'...Programmed to hang in space in a hexagonal grid pattern.'
Our GodBot, Who Art In Cyberspace
Vaal hungers! We must serve him.
easyJet Short-Haul Electric Jets
Have a little faith, will you? They're working on it.
Meet Assist-e Honda's Self-Balancing Motorcycle
'He had never ridden any motorized device that lacked onboard steering and balance systems...'
Kalashnikov's One-Seater Hovercraft
Not for windy days.
More SF in the News Stories
More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories