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Robotics Transportation Science

Robotic Glider Set To Break Autonomous Flight Records 33

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."
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Robotic Glider Set To Break Autonomous Flight Records

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  • Re:Surveillance (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Darkeye11547 ( 889506 ) on Sunday July 12, 2009 @02:27PM (#28668655)
    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 it immediately because there are always moments I wish Iwould have caught if I'd only had my camera out at the time. I wouldn't wear it for personal security. I'd wear it to catch youtube moments. Multiply this by the local population, and you've got a de-facto panopticon.
  • Autonomous Soaring (Score:1, Interesting)

    by feufeu ( 1109929 ) on Sunday July 12, 2009 @05:05PM (#28669771)
    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 implement other senses to improve the probability of finding a thermal", like used by birds or pilots of paragliders, hang gliders & sailplanes: "see" cumulus clouds, other birds, planes... sense differences in the temperature of the air... look for spots/features on the ground likely to produce thermals.
  • Collisions? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Martin Hellman ( 1254284 ) * on Monday July 13, 2009 @03:34AM (#28673329)
    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.

To avoid criticism, do nothing, say nothing, be nothing. -- Elbert Hubbard