Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Paleontologist Contributes to Flying Drone Design Based on Prehistoric Flying Reptile

06.10.2008
A Texas Tech University curator and an aeronautical engineer from the University of Florida have developed a 30-inch robotic spy plane modeled after a 225 million-year-old pterodactyl.

The drone, featuring a strange design of a rudder at the nose of the craft instead of the tail, would gather data from sights, sounds and smells in urban combat zones and transmit information back to a command center.

This concept will be presented on Tuesday (Oct. 7) at the Annual Meeting of the Geological Society of America in Houston.

According to paleontologist Sankar Chatterjee of Texas Tech and Rick Lind of the University of Florida, this project will demonstrate a next-generation capability of sensor emplacement using a pterodactyl as the model animal.

The unmanned, sensor-packed craft in development could soon be demonstrated using existing materials and actuators, the researchers said. Pterodrone, the military’s next generation of airborne drones, won’t just be small and silent – they’ll alter their wing shapes using morphing techniques to squeeze through confined spaces, dive between buildings, zoom under overpasses, land on apartment balconies or sail along the coastline for surveillance.

Pterodactyls lived 228 to 65 million years ago from the late Triassic Period to the end of the Cretaceous Period, Chatterjee said. They dominated the Mesozoic sky, swooping over the heads of dinosaurs. Their sizes ranged from a sparrow to a Cessna plane with a wingspan of 35 feet. Their bodies featured lightweight bones and an intricate system of collagen fibers that added strength and agility to their membranous wings.

“These animals take the best parts of bats and birds,” Chatterjee said. “They had the maneuverability of a bat, but could glide like an albatross. Nothing alive today compares to the performance and agility of these animals. They lived for 160 million years, so they were not stupid animals. The skies were darkened by flocks of them. They were the dominant flying animals of their time.”

Tapejara wellnhoferi, a pterodactyl from Brazil, featured a large, thin rudder-like sail on its head that functioned as a sensory organ. Though as big as a Canada goose, its strange design made it stand out from the Cretaceous crowd when it came to flying. This design showed promise as a model to develop into an unmanned aerospace vehicle called Pterodrone, which has superior agility to perform missions requiring aerial, terrestrial and aquatic locomotion.

Putting the tail at the nose of an airplane would seem like a failed design. However, Chatterjee’s research into Tapejara’s flight showed that the rudder acted similarly to a flight computer in a modern-day aircraft and also helped with the animal’s turning agility.

“Since the discovery of a complete Tapejara in Brazil about 10 years ago, we’ve found they could actually sail on the wind for very long periods as they flew over the oceans,” he said. “They spent most of their time hunting for fish. By raising their wings like sails on a boat, they could use the slightest breeze in the same way a catamaran moves across water. They could take off quickly and fly long distances with little effort.”

Similarly, the drone will sail in the same manner.

Initially, Lind said he had his doubts about creating a drone built with a tail at the nose of the aircraft.

“A vertical tail on the head is a destabilizing influence, so we immediately questioned how Tapejara could survive in that configuration,” Lind said. “The issue of flight control becomes quite relevant as the animal, and thus aircraft, must alter its flight properties to take advantage of the turning capabilities presented by this vertical tail and yet remain stable.”

Chatterjee and Lind used computer simulation models and, based off the complete skeleton of the Tapejara, were able to unlock the secrets of flight from this strangely shaped flying animal.

“Sankar actually contacted me about three years ago after seeing a story on the Discovery Channel on our bird-inspired aircraft to inquire if a pterodactyl-inspired aircraft could also be feasible,” Lind said. “We shared some discussions for a while and then finally got serious this year once we had a common concept and could build upon that foundation.”

Bio-inspiration has led surprisingly to a wide variety of robotic design, especially small Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) for urban environment that have taken cues from birds, bats and insects. Compared with a fixed-wing aircraft, a pterodactyl wing is a complicated structure of skin, hair, muscles, tendons, blood vessels and nerve tissue.

A team of students from the University of Florida will begin building the aircraft this fall. Chatterjee and Lind have submitted a joint proposal to The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency at the Department of Defense, which is currently under review.

CONTACT:
Sankar Chatterjee,
curator of paleontology at the Museum of Texas
Tech and Horn Professor of Geosciences, (806) 742-1986 or
sankar.chatterjee@ttu.edu; Rick Lind, associate professor, Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, University of Florida, (325) 392-6745 or

ricklind@ufl.edu

John Davis | Newswise Science News
Further information:
http://www.ttu.edu

More articles from Power and Electrical Engineering:

nachricht Waste from paper and pulp industry supplies raw material for development of new redox flow batteries
12.10.2017 | Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz

nachricht Low-cost battery from waste graphite
11.10.2017 | Empa - Eidgenössische Materialprüfungs- und Forschungsanstalt

All articles from Power and Electrical Engineering >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Salmonella as a tumour medication

HZI researchers developed a bacterial strain that can be used in cancer therapy

Salmonellae are dangerous pathogens that enter the body via contaminated food and can cause severe infections. But these bacteria are also known to target...

Im Focus: Neutron star merger directly observed for the first time

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...

Im Focus: Breaking: the first light from two neutron stars merging

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....

Im Focus: Smart sensors for efficient processes

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...

Im Focus: Cold molecules on collision course

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...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

3rd Symposium on Driving Simulation

23.10.2017 | Event News

ASEAN Member States discuss the future role of renewable energy

17.10.2017 | Event News

World Health Summit 2017: International experts set the course for the future of Global Health

10.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Microfluidics probe 'cholesterol' of the oil industry

23.10.2017 | Life Sciences

Gamma rays will reach beyond the limits of light

23.10.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

The end of pneumonia? New vaccine offers hope

23.10.2017 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>