Miniature airplanes to help in tracking hurricanes

December 1st, 2007 - 5:26 pm ICT by admin  

London , Dec 1 (ANI): Researchers have developed miniature airplanes that could someday track hurricanes, thus helping to better predict the course and strength of the storms.
Made by researchers at the University of Colorado at Boulder, these airplanes are basically uncrewed aerial vehicles (UAV) that weigh 250 grams each and have a wingspan of half a meter.
The research team used short-range radio transreceivers to connect five small aircraft, thus linking them up to form an airborne network. This allowed the planes to coordinate their behaviour independently of a central control.
Rather than using a single big, expensive UAV that requires someone on the ground to fly it, the new approach envisions flocks of dozens or even hundreds of small, autonomous aircraft that take general directions from a ground-based controller, but then make many of necessary flying decisions for themselves.
They work by each aircraft acting as a node on a network, transmitting its own location and speed, and receiving and passing along the same information from the other aircraft. A simple on-board processor uses the information to adjust the course of each aircraft.
One idea is for a flock of such UAVs to use temperature and pressure sensors to arrange themselves within a safe distance of a developing hurricane, or use chemical sensors to map out a hazardous chemical plume.
In experiments held in Sydney, Australia, earlier in November, the new aircraft flew autonomously in formation to different waypoints, where they circled while waiting for further instructions.
“The idea is to make the autonomous aircraft cheaper, more flexible, and more expendable,” Dale Lawrence, an aerospace engineer who worked on the project, told New Scientist.
The researchers plan to fly 10 aircraft together to see how well the networking scheme scales up in early 2008. (ANI)

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