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 -
MULTI Model Of Star Trek Turbolift
Cool prototype video!
Hand Gestures And Body Poses Control Devices
'He waved his hand... the circuit switched...'- Philip K. Dick, 1955.
Cellphone Harvests Power From Ambient Radio Signals And Light
A battery-free phone.
Chairless Chair Exoskeleton By Sapetti
'Earth's scientists... devised rigid metallic clothing...' - Edmond Hamilton, 1932.
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.
Will A Steel Umbrella Stop Russia?
'Everyone was aware that the damned platform was wandering around in its own orbit...'
EVE Artificial Womb For Lambs (For Now)
'In the crimson darkness, stewing warm on their cushion of peritoneum and gorged with blood-surrogate and hormones...'
TIKAD Armed Drone Ready To Fight
'Each a television eye and a sonic stunner...'
Bees Royal Jelly Helps Wounds Heal Faster
'An alien drug... used by an insect race.'
NASA Wants To Make Oxygen On Mars
'They plop down on the Red and if the dust is deep enough ... they burrow in...'
Hackers Insert Malware Into DNA
'They tied the memory to the bloodline and that was their record!'
X2-VelociRoACH Cooperates To Launch Tiny Drones
Little robots cooperating can do big tasks. Eventually.
'Do Not Pay' Chatbots To Replace Law Firm Associates?
'I want my lawyer program.'
MULTI Model Of Star Trek Turbolift
Cool prototype video!
A Look Into The Future Of Spacecraft!
Ever wonder how you look when you enter a new part of a spacecraft?
An 'Ethical Black Box' For Robots?
Explored by science fiction authors.
Dadbot Digital Immortality
'A hardwired ROM cassette replicating a dead man's skills...'
Should We Permit Computers To Create Their Own Language?
'Talk Between Robots radio...'
Breakthrough Starshot Sprites Yearn For Alpha Centauri
'Whoever launched it fired a laser cannon...'
Kino Project Roaming Personal Fashion Robots
'Most of the crew have the tiny imp ride on their shoulder...'
Astronaut Exercise Video, Predicted By SF Writers
'Joe got out the gravity-simulator harnesses.'
More SF in the News Stories
More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories