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 |

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 ( 3 )

Related News Stories - (" Surveillance ")

'Alexa For Residential' A Landlord's Dream (Tenant's Nightmare?)
'...unseen mechanical entities... that are in our very midst. One of them following each of us.' - Philip K. Dick, 1960.

Foiling Facial Recognition, Fighting Coaster Viruses, Harlan Ellison-Style
I have no mouth and I must scream.

Adversarial Pattern Shirts Confound Object Detection Systems
Ah, to be a vague blur!

A Passing Drone Has Covid-19 Advice
'Gold dots against blue, basketball-sized, twelve feet up.' Larry Niven, 1972.

 

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

Tesla Will Have Metal Gear Snake Autocoupler, Musk Confirms
'Its motion was so swift, complex, and perfect that at first I did not see it as a machine, in spite of its metallic glitter.'

Starlink Satellites Leading Edge On-Orbit Debris Mitigation
Propulsion-assisted orbital decay, brought to you by SpaceX.

Healight Ultraviolet Endotracheal Device Has Covid-19 Treatment Potential
'He applied the tip of the instrument to the interior of the wound...'

Parents Use AI To See One Last Message From Their Deceased Son
'...what's to keep me from showing face, Man?'

Satoshi Tomizu Creates Pocket Universes And Worldcraft Bubbles In Glass
'The Worldcraft bubble glittered, catching the light...'

Space Hero Inc. Offers Trip To ISS As Reality Show Prize
'This is Elmer Schmitz, presenting to you the finalists in our Aviation Quiz Program...'

I Love Ceiling-Mounted Robots
'Immediately an enormous apparatus fell on to her out of the ceiling...'

Armano Remote Control Excavator
'The bulldozer moved through the... mine... '

OK, NASA 3D Printer Of Food Not Yet Star Trek Food Synthesizer
Maybe not, but we're seeing definite progress.

Kelly Clarkson Show Like Black Mirror '15 Million Merits'
'These people are pieces of software called avatars.'

Salto Jumping Robot Now Sticks Landing!
'Lucky touched the leap knob and the hopper's leg retracted.'

Gyroscopic Median-Straddling Mass Transit Vehicles
'It was among these leviathans that the little gyrocar was daring to thrust its puny self...'

Bigrating Laser Beam-Riding Light Sail Is Self-Correcting
'That sail will be twenty thousand miles at the wide part.'

ISS Astronauts Test Estee Lauder 'Advanced Night Repair' Skin Serum
'Out in the New Moon, just ask for what you want...'

LG Wing Twisting Smartphone Might Be Fun
'A polycarbon screen unfurled...'

Mushroom Coffin Returns You To Nature, Naturally
'She touched the leaf. She was wanted.'

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.