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Power The Military

Micro Plane That Perches On Power Lines 192

An anonymous reader wrote in to tell us about a microplane that perches on power lines to recharge its batteries being developed as a surveillance device at MIT. As you can imagine, landing on a power line is hard to do ... and charging off transmission lines has its own problems.
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Micro Plane That Perches On Power Lines

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  • Charging (Score:5, Insightful)

    by davidwr ( 791652 ) on Thursday July 22, 2010 @11:40AM (#32990832) Homepage Journal

    "charging off transmission lines has its own problems."

    Not to mention how to bill for it.

  • Re:Perch? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by wvmarle ( 1070040 ) on Thursday July 22, 2010 @12:01PM (#32991148)

    Hooking up nose down may be easier, come to think of it. Because then what you should do is basically land on top of the wire with a small forward speed, letting your aircraft slide forward until the hook mounted all the way at the tail catches the wire. Presto, hanging nose down.

    Getting off would be simple as well that way: retract the hook, fall down making speed, and just pull up the nose. Now just make sure you hang on a high enough wire.

    Taking off hanging nose up is a bit harder, I would guess a tail flip - also a quite standard manoeuvre but requires more height. Unless your engine is so powerful that you can accelerate straight up. Not likely for such a craft.

  • by junglebeast ( 1497399 ) on Thursday July 22, 2010 @12:22PM (#32991444)

    Great, robotic birds land on the power lines and run up your electric bill.

  • Re:Perch? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nospam007 ( 722110 ) * on Thursday July 22, 2010 @12:24PM (#32991492)

    "One would wonder how the hell our ancestors managed to survive without living in a surveillance society. "

    They believed that some old man in the sky was watching them all the time.

  • by HTH NE1 ( 675604 ) on Thursday July 22, 2010 @12:30PM (#32991588)

    Laserbeak, eject. Operation: wiretapping.

  • by cgenman ( 325138 ) on Thursday July 22, 2010 @12:50PM (#32991928) Homepage

    All of the powerline powering systems I've seen breach the outer shell of the line with a metal hook.

    There is no way in hell that's getting approved for domestic usage. A: it would be sued out of existence amazingly quickly, and B: there are enough government-owned places around domestically that you could just plug the things in.

    Further, you'd have to either have someone watch all of that video (and we're tremendously backed up on audio recordings as-is), or process it somehow in a searchable format. Something like this would make sense to replace human tails in certain circumstances, and could be helpful in backing up helicopters in pursuit cases. But overall, there aren't enough police for a full police state. We just have way too much data as-is.

  • Re:Perch? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Thursday July 22, 2010 @01:15PM (#32992358) Journal
    “Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful.” -Seneca.
  • Re:Perch? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by westlake ( 615356 ) on Thursday July 22, 2010 @01:35PM (#32992686)

    This is all very interesting but ... do we really need another way to spy on people? One would wonder how the hell our ancestors managed to survive without living in a surveillance society.

    Your ancestors never knew what it was like to live outside a surveillance society.

    They might be Irish and Catholic, Russian and Jewish, Baptist and Negro - but the densely packed urban neighborhoods they inhabited were small towns writ large.

    The small town knows you by sight from the day you are born. It can recite every breath of scandal that has touched your family for the last five generations.

    There is one school, one church, one doctor, a general store, a post office....

    a saloon, and a gin mill....

    The saloon crowd more or less respectable and well-behaved. The gin mill - the road house just out of town - known to one and all for its drunkenness and danger.


  • Re:Perch? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by cgenman ( 325138 ) on Thursday July 22, 2010 @01:39PM (#32992780) Homepage

    It is definitely the biggest problem. But you make it sound like A.I.: something that has been worked on and has remained elusive for a half-century. Realistically speaking, precision close-range acrobatic RC flight has been worked on at MIT for about 7 years. A lot of that has been in groundwork that, unlike AI, actually seems to work.

    Wind is a major problem. But it seems premature to say that the project "wont work" because of it. Maybe it needs an internal accelerometer to judge wind offset. Maybe it needs to drop some chaff and do some velocity calculations. Maybe we need to increase the amount of control systems over a regular aircraft to give the computer the tools to deal with wind. Or maybe it just keeps moving until it finds a spot without a lot of wind. Wind doesn't seem like the death of the project.

  • Re:Charging (Score:2, Insightful)

    by minorproblem ( 891991 ) on Thursday July 22, 2010 @06:37PM (#32997236)

    Also if it flies between the lines its wingspan could potentially cause a flashover..

"The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts." -- Bertrand Russell