Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Robotics Transportation Science

Robotic Glider Set To Break Autonomous Flight Records 33

Posted by Soulskill
from the leaf-on-the-wind dept.
SoaringIsAwesome writes "Dan Edwards, a student at NC State University, is attempting to break two records by creating an autonomous glider. The project goal is a 142-mile cross country flight and a 25-mile flight (with return) without human intervention. The glider finds thermal updrafts and automatically circles them to gain altitude, much like birds and insects do. Recently, the glider flew in the desert for 4.5 hours, covering 70.5 miles by itself using only air currents to stay aloft. Since the NC State demonstration vehicle does not have a motor, this shows real promise for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) that actually have a motor, with possibilities of extending flight duration considerably. Combine daytime soaring with a solar energy system to charge batteries for the night, such as the 84-hour flight by QinetiQ's Zephyr, and you might just get an answer to flying for months on end. With this kind of endurance, the eye in the sky that the city of Lancaster is considering might be even more practical."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Robotic Glider Set To Break Autonomous Flight Records

Comments Filter:
  • Isn't the U.S. slightly wider than 142 miles? How can that be "cross country"?

    • by Brian Gordon (987471) on Sunday July 12, 2009 @12:50PM (#28668101)
      Do a 2-second search [wikipedia.org] yourself. It's when you're actually navigating from start to destination instead of just sort of flying around in circles and landing where you started.
    • Maybe they ment "cross county"
    • by goombah99 (560566) on Sunday July 12, 2009 @01:07PM (#28668203)

      Moreover, the thing just kept circling the Data centers where all the thermals were. If you hide in a cool valley you are safe I guess.

      • Autonomous Soaring (Score:1, Interesting)

        by feufeu (1109929)
        Come on guys, that's all about trying to emulate a migrating bird's flight with a model glider on limited resources. IMHO the challenge is to squeeze the necessary instrumentation in a model glider and do the programming for autonomous operation. On a first approach "finding thermals" is not more than 1) glide in a straight line and wait, 2) when lift is detected (altitude increases), turn, 3) when lift dies off goto 1). So that shouldn't be too difficult to implement. The *real* geek fun is : "try to imp
        • by ChrisMP1 (1130781)
          Those steps might *find* a thermal, but they won't get you any altitude. Let me guess: You've never actually flown a glider?
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by feufeu (1109929)
            Wrong guess, i've 5000+hrs in real size ones, no kidding.

            The problem basically breaks down into two parts:

            1) find a thermal

            Standard theory says that thermals are spaced at intervals of about 1.5 times their vertical extension (ground to cloud base or top of blue thermal with no Cu cloud on top) and using all his senses a glider pilot has a fair chance of getting from one to the next without hitting the ground first. If the only available option to find the next thermal is to fly in a straight line and wa

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Falconhell (1289630)

      Cross country in Gliding generally refers to flying outside glide range of the airfield, most often onn a triangular course of a set distance.

  • by Colin Smith (2679)

    You can fill a bubble with helium and stay up as long as you like.

     

  • Surveillance (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TheMeuge (645043) on Sunday July 12, 2009 @12:56PM (#28668145)

    With this kind of endurance, the eye in the sky that the city of Lancaster is considering might be even more practical.

    Are we happy about that? Stazi managed to keep a hundred thousand people under surveillance with just manpower. The inevitability of a technological solution to their inability to perform 24/7 surveillance of 100% of their citizens makes me shudder. As staggering as this is, I am fairly sure that only overwhelming cost is preventing many governments (including UK, AU and US in that order), from implementing such measures, since it's becoming clear that the citizens are willing to give up any privacy and liberty they have left, in order to feel safer, and (at best) reduce their absolute risks by minute amounts.

    • by vlm (69642)

      As staggering as this is, I am fairly sure that only overwhelming cost is preventing many governments (including UK, AU and US in that order), from implementing such measures, since it's becoming clear that the citizens are willing to give up any privacy and liberty they have left, in order to feel safer, and (at best) reduce their absolute risks by minute amounts.

      No, the govt spends like a drunken sailor and this technology is pretty cheap. The real reason is PR related.

      1) Since the only govt goal is providing security theater, as opposed to real security, hiring some uneducated ineffective bullies to stand around the airport and intimidate innocent civilians is cheaper, more theatrical, and has plenty of opportunity to buy votes and/or do corrupt deals, thus it meets the goals much more effectively... Security theater has to be in your face and over the top and a

      • Actually drug gangs HAVE already been caught with their "little own air force". I believe one unmanned drug delivery probe has already been found. I have little doubt they will soon multiply thousandfold.

        Some very worrying comments from someone who builds these things [ning.com]. You really think none of the people capable of doing this took the offer ?

        And the only way you're going to stop a large fleet of (very cheap) UAV's for any reasonable price (whatever people say, economics, not militaries, win wars, so downing

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Darkeye11547 (889506)
      Newsflash, the reality is that surveillance technology is susceptible to Moore's Law. It's getting cheaper and better every year. It won't be too long before privacy outside of one's private bunker (and probably inside it too) is a luxury no-one can afford. I already own no less than four cameras, and that's not even counting things that /only/ take pictures. If some company released a product next year, some sort of pendant or pair of glasses that would constantly record to cheap storage media, I would buy
    • But by the same token it seems like citizens are demanding more and more protection from themselves, because when something bad happens to them, it doesn't matter if it's their own fault, they blame it on other people and sue until people are forced to stop people from exploiting the situation to absolve themselves and make others pay for what they have ruined for themselves. In short, people seem to practically beg for harsh reprimands, and less responsibility, and less control, because these are the most
    • by GreenCow (201973)

      it's becoming clear that the citizens are willing to give up any privacy and liberty they have left

      I think it is important to make a distinction between privacy and liberty; privacy would be your ability to prevent others from having access to information that you have, and liberty is a more general freedom to do all sorts of things. Privacy is a subset of liberty. For example, I may be willing to give up privacy, but I may, at the same time, push for greater liberties in other areas, such as consuming marijuana.

      We should understand the benefits of privacy. In the previous example, I may use privacy to c

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by TheMeuge (645043)

        I disagree. I would argue that privacy is absolutely required for liberty in the real world. The two are inextricably linked, because the only rights you have, are ones you can defend. Defending your rights in the face of a segment of society that knows everything about you, while you know nothing about them, is a rather doomed endeavor.

        So while people keep talking about their freedoms, they are being deprived of their weapons, and their privacy. And in the absence of either, there can be no liberty.

  • Collisions? (Score:2, Interesting)

    As a pilot who has occasionally had to dodge birds and stray helium balloons, what worries me is the small, but non-zero chance that such an autonomous glider could collide with a manned (or womanned) aircraft. FAA Advisory Circular 91-57 recommends that model aircraft fly no higher than 400' and take other precautions not to interfere with full-scale aircraft. Given the length of his flights, I strongly suspect he is flying well above that.
    • by fprintf (82740)

      As a RC Sailplane pilot I can tell you that this advisory does not apply universally to all US airspace. I have documented flights well over 1500' where the 3 meter plane was just a small speck in the sky. I do not disagree that having an autonomous sailplane flying above 4500' is dangerous, or significantly lower than that in typically travelled airspace.

      I would just advise to check out the interpretation of that particular FAA advisory with the AMA (Aeronautical Modelers Association) - my recollection is

      • FAA Advisory Circulars are just that - advisory and not mandatory. But, if deviance from that advice leads to accidents, especially fatalities, then they have a tendency to become mandatory regulations. Depending on where you guys are flying, the risk may be small or large, hopefully something your safety committee is taking into account.
  • I've been looking for a out of the box UAV project for some time now (or in fact just a land or water based one). The best I can find so far is : "paparazzi" at http://paparazzi.enac.fr/wiki/Main_Page [paparazzi.enac.fr] - but it's still quite a bit of work to plug all the bits together (and right now I have very little spare tinkering time). Anybody got any other options ??

Never put off till run-time what you can do at compile-time. -- D. Gries

Working...