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 -
Wear Your Self-Powered Generator
'It's basically a micro-sandwich...' - Frank Herbert, 1965.
Auto-Focus Smart Glasses Have Liquid Lenses
'Hufhuf oil held in static tension by an enclosing force field within a viewing tube...' - Frank Herbert, 1965.
Google Perfects 'Blade Runner-style' Photo Details
'Pull back... stop... enhance 57-19...' - Blade Runner, 1982.
CloudFisher - Moroccan Fog Farmers Harvest Moisture From The Air
'That moisture trickles down...', Frank Herbert, 1965.
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.
PassivDom 3D Printed House - What If You Could Live Anywhere?
'The houses are prefabricated units...'
Breakthrough In Manufacture Of Red Blood Cells
This blood's for you!
Caihong Solar-Powered Drone 'Atmospheric Satellite'
'... placed in the wings of a plane to generate power from the light falling on that surface.'
NASA Wants Low Earth Orbit Wifi
'This was the center of Interplanetary Communications.'
Is Genetic Testing At Businesses A Bad Idea?
It's not a topic that fares well in science fiction movies-
Wearable Smart Jacket
He pressed the button in his sleeve communicator and snapped: 'Action stations!'
Store One Bit On One Atom
'...each individual molecule has a meaning.'
Fluorescent Bacteria Fashion
'The racks of gowns itched and quivered, their colors running into blurred pools.'
Keith Laumer's Bolo Autonomous Tanks Right On Schedule
'I cannot lie idle under attack.'
When Computers Develop Their Own Language, Will They Talk To Us?
'The curious absent look of a robot talking on the TBR circuits - the Talk Between Robots radio...'
LipNet Reads Lips - Until Disconnected, That Is
'We'd have to cut his higher brain functions... I'm not sure what [HAL} would think about that.'
Eterni.me - To Skype With The Dead
'Nothing... left of Jeserac but a galaxy of electrons frozen in the heart of a crystal.'
Wearable MRI Is Former Occulus/Facebook Exec's New Project
'Your cephalochromoscope... that you always turn on and play when you get home...'
Ford Stratasys Infinte Build 3D Printer
'He proudly indicated his Buick... Almost as good as the original it was printed from...'
The Space Suit As Personal Spaceship
'Darn clever, these suits...'
Dune Fans! Your God Emperor Is Ready
'If one held a sandtrout in the hand, smoothing it over your skin, it formed a living glove.'
More SF in the News Stories
More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories