The tiny, autonomous craft — some fly, others dart under the waves — can spy on hurricanes at close range without getting blown willy-nilly, while sensors onboard collect and send in real time the data scientists need to predict the intensity and trajectory of storms: pressure, temperature, humidity, location and time.
Photo by: Eric Zamora/University of Florida
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Autonomous flying drones like this one are the result of research by Kamran Mohseni and graduate researchers with the Institute for Networked Autonomous Systems in the department of mechanical and aerospace engineering at the University of Florida. Photo taken May 30, 2013.
Mohseni said people always ask him how the miniature flying machines — just 6 inches long and about the weight of an iPod Nano — can take on one of the monster storms.
“Our vehicles don’t fight the hurricane; we use the hurricane to take us places,” said Mohseni, the W.P. Bushnell Endowed Professor in the department of mechanical and aerospace engineering and the department of electrical and computer engineering.
The aerial and underwater vehicles can be launched with commands from a laptop hundreds of miles from the eye of a hurricane. Mohseni and a team of graduate students use mathematical models to predict regions in the atmosphere and ocean that can give the vehicles a free ride toward their destination. Once in the vicinity, they can be powered off to wait for a particular current of wind or water. When they detect the current they need for navigation, they power back on, slip into the current, then power off again to conserve fuel as the current carries them to a target location.
In essence, they can go for a fact-gathering ride on hurricane winds and waters.
The devices are a departure from current technology, which uses hurricane reconnaissance aircraft to punch through a storm’s eye wall and release dropsondes, sensors that free-fall and might or might not collect helpful data. Underwater data are even more difficult to collect today, although just as important, considering that the warm, moist air on the ocean surface provides fuel for hurricanes.
Mohseni’s vehicles, even launched hundreds at a time, also reduce the cost of hurricane reconnaissance.
“If you want to blast through a hurricane, you have to build a bigger airplane,” Mohseni said. “[The military] asks for a Batman airplane, a super-duper aircraft that could do everything. But what if you lose one of these super-duper airplanes?
“We are going the opposite direction. We don’t have anything that is super duper. We have cheap sensors, but with a lot of them you can significantly increase the accuracy of your measurements,” said Mohseni, director of UF’s new Institute for Networked Autonomous Systems. “You get super duper on an aggregate level.”
The prototypes produced at the institute are about $250 apiece and are too small and lightweight to cause damage when they hit something, a big consideration in hurricane-force winds and waves. Mohseni does not use a landing strip to test the aerial vehicles; he just tells them to crash, picks them up and flies them again. The carbon fiber shell of the aerial vehicles is wafer-thin but resilient. With proper funding, Mohseni said, the vehicles could be tested in a real-world hurricane in two or three years.
In instances where many are lost — as in a hurricane — the data gained outweighs the cost of the lost vehicles, Mohseni said. Production costs would drop if the vehicles were mass-produced.
The vehicles also are smart. Mohseni developed a cooperative control algorithm that allows them to form a network and learn from the data they take in, for example, by adjusting their course when needed. This feature makes them useful for applications beyond hurricanes.
Extreme environments, such as the polar ice caps, are difficult and hazardous to measure with standard technology. Mohseni said heat transfer through polar ice between the ocean and the air goes almost completely unmeasured today but could be safely measured with the aerial vehicles, which can be launched from a laptop aboard a ship and send back climate data in real time.
Vehicles so tiny, powerful and smart would have been far-fetched even 10 years ago, Mohseni said, but advances in microfabrication, communications, computer processing and computation have led to sophisticated technology in small packages. Nevertheless, Mohseni also has drawn inspiration from seemingly less-sophisticated sources, such as jellyfish.
Mohseni had been studying fluid dynamics, working on propulsion, when a biologist mentioned that jellyfish navigate in much the same way as the mechanical system Mohseni wanted to develop. After studying jellyfish, cuttlefish and squid, Mohseni developed a mathematical model of their thrust and used that model to develop the motors for his underwater sensor vehicles. He now has small submarines capable of autonomous docking using technology mimicking jellyfish and squid, and the sea creatures are common fixtures in his laboratory.
“With biomimicry, learning from what nature does,” Mohseni said, “you just sort of get amazed.”Source
Cindy Spence | Newswise
NASA finds newly formed tropical storm lan over open waters
17.10.2017 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center
The melting ice makes the sea around Greenland less saline
16.10.2017 | Aarhus University
University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event
On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...
Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.
Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....
Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).
When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...
Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.
How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...
Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, using high precision laser spectroscopy of atomic hydrogen, confirm the surprisingly small value of the proton radius determined from muonic hydrogen.
It was one of the breakthroughs of the year 2010: Laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen resulted in a value for the proton charge radius that was significantly...
17.10.2017 | Event News
10.10.2017 | Event News
10.10.2017 | Event News
18.10.2017 | Materials Sciences
18.10.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
18.10.2017 | Physics and Astronomy