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Ultra-Light Micro Air Vehicles 143

Posted by samzenpus
from the eye-in-the-sky dept.
Roland Piquepaille writes "Dutch engineers have built the third generation of the DelFly autonomous air vehicle. The DelFly Micro made its first public flight earlier today in Delft. This micro air vehicle weighs only 3 grams and has a wingspan of 10 centimeters. This very small remote-controlled aircraft carries a 0.4 gram camera. The DelFly Micro, which looks like a dragonfly, can fly for 3 minutes at a maximum speed of 5 meters/second. It could be used for observation flights in difficult-to-reach or dangerous areas."
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Ultra-Light Micro Air Vehicles

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  • Paging Danny Dunn... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 24, 2008 @08:02AM (#24316667)

    Danny Dunn [wikipedia.org] to the white courtesy phone, please ...

    • by QuantumHack (58048) * on Thursday July 24, 2008 @08:10AM (#24316705) Homepage

      That's exactly what I was thinking! When I was 12, and I read Raymond Abrashkin's "Danny Dunn: Invisible Boy", I was mesmerized. And this mini UAV is essentially the plot device in the book, right down to the dragonfly appearance. Pretty good prediction for a book from the mid '70s.

    • Damn, I remember that one. The part that really impressed me was they had the whole premise of "invisible boy" and that's what you're lead to expect due to low-plausibility kid books but the author then goes and gives a very plausible explanation for how a pseudo-invisibility suit would work, i.e. the dragonfly you remotely pilot.

      Now just think back to that slashdot article a while back talking about a micro-UAV that could be powered by an external field and we're talking about Dune hunter-seekers.

  • Video link: (Score:5, Informative)

    by Sporkus (840586) <kevrhodes AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday July 24, 2008 @08:04AM (#24316677)
    There's a video of the DelFly Micro in action here [youtube.com]. It takes flight about a minute and a half in.
  • by UncleWilly (1128141) * <UncleWilly07 AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday July 24, 2008 @08:06AM (#24316689)

    You'd still notice this in the girl's shower.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I'll show this thing a dangerous area.

  • I do hope Santa has a good stock of these come Christmas time. I just have to persuade my wife I really do _need_ one of these.
    • by Ozeroc (1146595)
      You can get a RC Dragonfly toy today. http://www.amazon.com/Discovery-Exclusive-Radio-Control-DragonFly/dp/B000QMYSDM [amazon.com] It may not be as small or come with a camara, but it does look cool.

      Oz
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by TheLink (130905)
      After looking at it in action, I still prefer the toy helis I got.

      They're 50% longer and wider (so not much bigger), but they are 5 times heavier - 15g.

      They look like this:
      http://www.airsport.com.hk/ShowProduct.asp?id=380
      (I didn't buy it from there though - it's just a link I got from google).

      Trouble is the quality control is not very good, so either you get it at a shop where you can test it first, or you'd have to risk getting a dud. And even if it seems to work, there's no guarantee it'll continue to wor
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        There's also this new one [thinkgeek.com], which is basically the same size as the DelFly Micro, can hover, and has double the flight time. It doesn't have a camera, though, but considering TFA claims the Micro's camera only weighs 0.5 grams it would be easy to add one.

        • by dgatwood (11270)

          It's probably not the weight of the camera that decreases the flight time, but rather the power needed to transmit a video signal back to your receiving station without too much signal degradation....

        • by TheLink (130905)
          It's only two channel though - turn and throttle. That said the DelFly Micro is probably limited similarly.

          0.5 grams is light. Just adding lubricant to your heli will probably add 0.5 grams.

          Ultra light air vehicles that don't have power and maneuverability won't do well outdoors - just a light breeze will sweep them far away.

          So it's not so simple to make one to use for outdoor surveillance.

          For indoor surveillance you are better off making a remote controlled roach or gecko. Just make sure you include enough
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by strelitsa (724743) *

        I've got three, and one is faulty (it still flies but the motor or something is not smooth- blades stop spinning nearly immediately when you cut the throttle).

        That sure sounds like hair either wrapped around the rotor spindle or pressing between the spindle and the motor to me. Even one hair can slow down the blades and make the thing unflyable. I use a big magnifying glass and an X-Acto knife blade to clear any foreign matter out of this area.

  • 3 minutes? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Ngarrang (1023425) on Thursday July 24, 2008 @08:18AM (#24316765) Journal

    3 minutes is not very useful. By the time you reach your destination and actually get some good images, you've run out of time to return and have effectively lost your MAV. If they are meant to be throw-away, this is not a design flaw.

    From my experience as an RC pilot, the smaller the craft, the more difficult it is to control. I would be curious to see how they've overcome the twitchiness of a such light weight.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Rogerborg (306625)
      It doesn't looks as though they have overcome the twitchiness. Perhaps the idea is to buy them by the gross. You only need one to get through.
      • Re: (Score:1, Flamebait)

        by Rogerborg (306625)
        ^^^
        s/have/haven't.

        Not that it matters: it'll get modded as insightful, funny, and troll anyway.

      • Something this small is always going to be blown about by the slightest of air currents anyway, so you need to be able to compensate for lack of 100% control. Same deal for real-life dragonflies, butterflies and even birds (even seen them trying to fly against a strong wind?), but this doesn't prevent any of these from being able to get where they want to and land on flowers, bits of grass or whetever. You just need appropriate control software.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by DaveDerrick (1070132)
      Assuming the 5m/s is correct, it could fly upto 900 metres in its 3 minute flight time. Surely thats enough to fly into a danger area & take a few snaps ?
    • Proof of concept!
      3 minutes isn't much, but imagine integrating solar power into this.....
      Now imagine a cluster of these all flying autonomously......
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      3 minutes is not very useful. By the time you reach your destination and actually get some good images, you've run out of time to return and have effectively lost your ...

      Ahem. That's what she said.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by jollyreaper (513215)

      3 minutes is not very useful. By the time you reach your destination and actually get some good images,

      Some slashdotters may be quicker on the trigger than you.

  • What happens if one of these gets sucked into a jet engine? Are they small and soft enough to not cause problems?
    • by dimension6 (558538) on Thursday July 24, 2008 @09:15AM (#24317201)
      Hm...I don't think they'll survive easily if they get sucked into a jet engine. They're kind of small and don't look that durable.
    • by mad flyer (589291)

      I hate this kind of questions... They appear to look insightfull while they are close to trolling.

      A jet engine is designed to swallow frozen chicken (or live birds) and you are scared by a 3g RC piece of dust that would not be powerfull enought to survive to the sheer suction force or even be able to get anywhere near a flying jet.

      What's your next profound thought ? "what if bin laden get ahold of one of these OMG!!!!11!!!!" then he could carry... no payload... in a 3g plane with 3minutes range... might as

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by skraps (650379)
        Wasn't intended as a troll, I promise. :-) I was already aware that jets are tested with chickens, but chickens (bones included) are pretty soft compared to, say, batteries. And I think these could get pretty close to a jet on take-off or landing. Maybe you should re-read my comment and yours, and ask yourself which sounds more like a troll.
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by mad flyer (589291)

          no, i actually sound more like a psychopath...

          But still a rc model of 3g... even with battery... would hardly damage an engine.

          • by HiThere (15173)

            Wonder if it has any titanium parts...

            It's light enough that it wouldn't be a problem. Not sure about soft enough. OTOH, I also don't have any idea about clearance inside jet engines. Possibly it's small enough to go through in one piece, were it strong enough. In that, or analogous, case having a few small hard rigid parts shouldn't matter.

  • Why a dragonfly? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Blice (1208832) <Lifes@Alrig.ht> on Thursday July 24, 2008 @08:26AM (#24316803)
    I don't understand why they're trying to shape it after a dragonfly- There are more efficient ways of getting around the air than flapping wings. I mean, yeah, I get that it would be cool to have one that actually looked like a dragonfly for spying and such, but for getting into dangerous or hard to reach places it shouldn't be designed this way.

    I think a really good example is this guy's plane [youtube.com], he made it to be as light as possible and had to make his own motor for it. I think they should make one the size of this 'dragonfly' but with a propeller like the plane in the video.
    • by spydink (256993)

      Plus, a dragonfly design has already been done [wikipedia.org] by the ISIT probe.

      • by d3ac0n (715594)

        Heh,

        I remember reading that book as a kid! MAN I wanted one of those SO BADLY. And now I can finally get one! Although I think I'll skip the "setting fires with small dragonfly probe and destroying the probe in the process" part.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by smoker2 (750216)

      I don't understand why they're trying to shape it after a dragonfly- There are more efficient ways of getting around the air than flapping wings. I mean, yeah, I get that it would be cool to have one that actually looked like a dragonfly for spying and such, but for getting into dangerous or hard to reach places it shouldn't be designed this way.

      Yeah, the millions of species of insect and bird have got a lot to learn from us land lubbers. I mean, hovering in one position is a piece of cake for our mechanical devices, so much so that we can get a flight to anywhere we want and we don't need a runway. Oh, wait, we can't unless we use a helicopter, which is slow in the horizontal plane and noisy and fuel hungry.
      Living things manipulate the air in much more elegant and finely controlled ways than anything man has produced. We mainly just force our wa

    • A dragonfly (both real ones and this one - did you watch the videos?) is a lot move maneuverable (can change direction on a dime) than a plane, and also for covert applications not going to draw attention since it really does look like a dragonfly and the only noise is the flapping wings.

      I'm not even sure that the aerodynamics of plane would scale to this small, but this thing demonstrably does, and real-life dragonflys prove that this design does indeed work at smaller scales such as the 5cm they are targe

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by dtfusion (658871)
      At small scales the Reynolds number ~ vL/nu gets smaller. So for a given velocity, smaller objects behave like they are in a more viscous medium. Flexible wings that "swim" through the air can be more efficient and more stable than fixed wings at such scales.
    • by PhotoGuy (189467)

      I think a really good example is this guy's plane [youtube.com], he made it to be as light as possible and had to make his own motor for it. I think they should make one the size of this 'dragonfly' but with a propeller like the plane in the video.

      What a radical design! They should make passenger planes with this style. :) I guess the Wright Bros. were onto something.

      It sure seems a lot more stable, controllable, and elegant that the dragonfly. (Granted, it was larger, which adds stability, but it wasn't *that* much bigger.) The dragonfly seemed out of control most of the flight, nearly hitting floors, walls, ceilings, and the photographer.

      The one you linked to seemed to have a STOL (short-takeoff-and-landing) style to it, allowing slow, controll

    • by Ricken (797341)
      I guess a good reason is because its alot easier to control when outside. That guy's plane will definitely be uncontrollable when the slightest wind kicks in.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by TheSync (5291) *

      I don't understand why they're trying to shape it after a dragonfly- There are more efficient ways of getting around the air than flapping wings.

      Flapping wings can be more efficient at low Reynolds number [amazon.com] configurations, like small insects or micro UAVs.

      Evolution, of course, already worked out the Reynolds number configurations for soaring, near-fixed wing flight (large birds of prey) versus mostly flapping flight (flies).

  • by Werrismys (764601) on Thursday July 24, 2008 @08:38AM (#24316895)
    take a peek at who's around thecorner.. or who's lieing prone on the ceiling... heck, add 2 grams of explosive and use it as a diversion.
  • Insectothopter? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by rocketman768 (838734) on Thursday July 24, 2008 @08:39AM (#24316913) Homepage
    Insectothopter? [wikipedia.org] CIA had these back in the 70s...very hard to control in winds over 5 knots though.
  • I can't find the word autonomous anywhere in TFA and it's not surprising, considering that it's radio controlled. They "may" make it capable of self guidance in future, but at the moment it's not autonomous.
    Nice long word though Roland ! Maybe you meant eponymous ?
  • by BobMcD (601576) on Thursday July 24, 2008 @08:43AM (#24316955)

    Does NO ONE ELSE remember THIS conversation:

    http://yro.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=07/10/11/131214 [slashdot.org]

    Scroll through it and take in all the posts about how all the eye witnesses were CRAZY to have reported seeing "Dragonfly-Sized Insect Spies". Bathe in the impossibility of the batteries, the cameras, the wireless technology. Soak up how it simply was not even close to being true.

    One of a short list of things must be the case:

    A) That story from October certainly WAS plausible and a lot of you pundits are going to be dining on fresh hat today.

    B) All the know-it-all's are still correct, due to some technicality.

    C) I have somehow swapped dimensions again and no one ever said it didn't happen at all...

    • http://www.amazon.com/s?ie=UTF8&keywords=wowwee%20flytech&search-type=best&tag=coffeeresearch102885-20&index=blended&link_code=qs [amazon.com]

      The link above shows several Wowee flying toys, yes they have flying fairies too. The dragonfly got me cause it was flying with flapping wings. They do not come with cameras, but they claim to hover and fly for longer times than the one in the article.

    • It's no secret there are some secrets that are necessarily kept secret in the national interest, there are people paid to keep them that way, and there are specific tools to counteract undesirable leaks such as disinfo, misinfo, etc.

      Incidentally, micro UAVs similar to the dragon fly, but with micro-turbines, have been in production since at least the 1980s (no links).

      And finally :-), we wish to reassure viewers that there is simply no truth in the rumors that fake UFOs have been produced and tested in m

  • A Mathman Prophecy (Score:2, Insightful)

    by imstanny (722685)

    The DelFly Micro, which looks like a dragonfly, can fly for 3 minutes at a maximum speed of 5 meters/second. It could be used for observation flights in difficult-to-reach or dangerous areas

    How can it do that, if it only flies for 3 minutes?

    • How can it do that, if it only flies for 3 minutes?

      5 meters per second, 300 seconds. 1500 meters (just under a mile). I can think of a lot of times a group of soldiers might want to know what was going on within a mile of their location, say, over near that machinegun nest....

      • by Dunbal (464142)

        I can think of a lot of times a group of soldiers might want to know what was going on within a mile of their location, say, over near that machinegun nest....

              (One 500lb bomb later)

              WHAT machine-gun nest?

    • by splutty (43475) on Thursday July 24, 2008 @09:20AM (#24317257)

      I would say 500 meters straight up and over the edge of that cliff you're standing at the bottom of would definitely fall under 'difficult-to-reach'. And quite possibly be extremely useful to have one person there checking that out before you bring in say that helicopter...

  • I have a simple question and I must so humbly ask forgiveness for my ignorance but...

    WHAT THE FUCK DOES OHNOITSROLAND MEAN FER CHRISSAKE
    • by jafiwam (310805) on Thursday July 24, 2008 @09:12AM (#24317173) Homepage Journal

      "Roland" is the submission whore that "blogs" (copies) stuff from all over, links to it, adds a simplistic comment then somehow gets that submitted to Slashdot.

      He does it for ad revenue. Quite effective at it, and quite annoying for those great unwashed that don't suck Slashdot dick to get stories submitted.

      • Ah, you see? Now I know!

        I must excuse my outburst, someone took the Vodka bottle from my bottom drawer so I had to get by with seven coffees this morning.

        Perhaps I'll ask the janitor sleeping under my desk if he knows where the bottle went.
      • by drinkypoo (153816)
        To be fair, Roland Pikatroll (I can never remember how to spell his real name, if that is his real name) has dramatically improved the quality of both his blog postings and his story submissions. To the point where one of the recent ones actually carried an editor's note about how his blog posting had more information than the link. The guy is still kind of annoying but he comes up with some good links. I don't really give a shit whose submissions get accepted if interesting stories end up on slashdot. I do
      • Not to mention the incitement Slashdot eds have to post his stuff, since every one of his stories spawns a whole thread complaining about him, giving Slashdot thousands of additional ad impressions. Compared with other submitters on the same story, his are going to be more profitable. Because of whining.

  • Maybe it's just me, but I've seen lots of birds try to eat bugs that looked like that. Hope it has at least a couple of Sidewinders on-board, somewhere.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      Nooo it won't have Sidewinders, it will have a Stinger.

      See cuz it's small.

      Small right? Like a...

      Bug...

      Annnnnd...

      <spontaneously implodes>
  • Keep trying! You can go longer! Just think of something else to distract yourself. Pretend you are flying over a dangerous area.
  • In that case, I have a large and impressive vehicle [wikipedia.org] collection!

  • I laugh at 3 grams (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Radio control micro planes have been built here in the US by hobby people that weigh LESS than 1/2 gram

  • The smallest I am aware of is Angry Monk's world record 3.125" span 390 micro gram plane
    http://www.rcgroups.com/forums/showthread.php?t=892415 [rcgroups.com]

    or

    Martin Newell's Shark at 2.65" span and 0.495 gram
    http://mnewell.rchomepage.com/Planes/Shark/Shark-1.html [rchomepage.com]
    Flight time is "A few minutes"

  • Are here [youtube.com]
  • ...a fan.

    Can you imagine how difficult it would be to control this in windy environment!

  • That is some serious "observation" you can do in 3 minutes. Hopefully, what you want to observe is within 3 minutes flight time (if you don't care to get it back) or within 1.5 minutes if you DO want it back.

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