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 |
you like to contribute a story tip?
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add
Comment/Join discussion ( 3 )
Related News Stories -
Juggalo Face Paint Disrupts Facial Recognition
'... designed to foil facial recognition systems.' - Neal Stephenson, 2019
'Agression Detectors' Don't Work When Spying On Students
'The professional agitators had also learned how to modulate their voices below the danger level...' - Anne McCaffrey, 1973.
Adversarial Patches Trick Computer Vision
'The surveillance cameras can all see it, but then they forget they’ve seen it.' - William Gibson, 2010.
FLIR Black Hornet 3 Palm-sized Drone
These drones can provide situational awareness beyond visual line-of-sight capability.
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.
China Deploys Robot Traffic Police
'The robot came up smooth and fast as a rocket...'
Better Than Dune Chromoplastic? This Guy Might Have Done It
'But when Old Father Sun departs, the chromoplastic reverts to transparency in the dark.'
Gather, An AI Warehouse Inventory Drone Startup
'It extended three of its tiny arms sideways to lock onto the registration pins...'
China's Artificial Intelligence-Enhanced Education
'The grey gas not only cut off his vision, but also his other senses...'
Orbital Manufacturer 'Made in Space' Gets $73 Million NASA Contract
'Mass-produced in the orbiting factories...'
Soli Gesture Tech Will Be In Google Pixel 4
'I enjoy watching this way, but - He waved his hand and the circuit switched abruptly.'
Uber Eats Pairs Cars With Drones
Fresh grub? Let's hope they aren't delivering grubs.
Space-Based Solar Power Roundup
SF writers popularized and elaborated on this idea a generation before the first patents were filed.
Lost Language Meanings Found By Machine Learning
'The autopilot would need data before it could begin a translation...'
'Aerogel' Sheets For Martian Gardens
'Sealed to the ground along all the sides, Honey, he growled...'
France's 'Red Team' Of Science Fiction Authors
'They're the only experts we have.'
Dim The Sun With Stratospheric Controlled Perturbation Experiment
'Those twin volcanoes; d'ye see them, Mr. Renner?'
Mashambas Skyscraper Farm Design Wins
'...a towering eighty-story structure like the office In-and Out baskets stacked up to the sky.'
Self-Driving Tractors From China Plan Ahead
'Machines that seemingly with full consciousness walked out into the fields to do their daily work.'
Jet-Powered Hoverboard Works!
L'audace, l'audace, toujours l'audace!
Nobe 3-Wheel Electric Vehicle Parking Like I, Robot
Spidercar, Spidercar, does whatever a spidercar does.
More SF in the News Stories
More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories