Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Is it a bird, is it a plane? No it’s supercopter

14.10.2008
Unmanned helicopters could soon be a key part of emergency relief operations, as well as bringing a new dimension to filmmaking, thanks to some innovative work done by European researchers.

When natural disasters happen one of the first casualties is often the communications network. As a result, rapid response crews can be working virtually blind, cut off from each other and the victims they are trying to help.

Where there are transport arteries, such as roads, rivers and railways, they are also very often damaged or disrupted, which makes getting medical and relief supplies to survivors extremely difficult.

When such disasters happen in remote areas with little in the way of communications or transport infrastructure to start with, the problem is exacerbated.

A solution for both the communications and delivery of supplies problems is now being researched in an EU-funded project, called AWARE, which comprises academic and commercial partners from five European countries.

Self-deploying sensor network

Project coordinator Prof Anibal Ollero says a key part of the system being developed is a self-deploying sensor network. “Most sensor network applications assume there is a communications infrastructure, and so one challenge was to devise a system which can cope when there is no such infrastructure or it has been damaged,” he says.

Helicopters were chosen as the aerial component of the project because of their manoeuvrability and ability to hover. This means they can drop sensor nodes off exactly where they are required, automatically calculating where the gaps are and building up a new communications infrastructure. They are also able to functions as aerial communications relays, and to transmit live photographs of exactly what is happening on the ground. These images are then processed in real time and the results are combined with information from sensor nodes and ground cameras to create a detailed picture that facilitates detection, localisation and tracking.

Finally, helicopters can also be used to carry loads, such as medical supplies, and deliver them to exact locations.

IT in the driving the seat

Ollero points out the aim of the project was to develop the software, middleware and functionalities of a control system for autonomous unmanned helicopters coupled with a ground wireless sensor network with both fixed nodes and nodes carried by vehicles and people.

“This is primarily an IT project so we did not concentrate so much on the helicopters’ airframes as on a scaleable control system which, in the future, could be used on a larger scale,” he notes.

The actual helicopters used were less than two metres in diameter, but were still able to prove the potential of the system in real-life simulations.

“The first trial was in March 2007, and the feedback from this allowed us to complete the system design. Then in April 2008, we had another field trial which allowed partial integration of the various sub-systems in the field. A final, fully integrated demonstration will be held in the spring of 2009, just before the project ends,” he says.

The Sixth Framework Programme-funded project has already been able to demonstrate a world first for either manned or unmanned helicopters by having a load too heavy for one helicopter alone carried by three autonomous unmanned helicopters working together.

“It is very difficult to coordinate the helicopters, so this was a very ambitious objective of the project,” he says.

Ollero points out it is also important for the bottom line, as the cost of helicopters increases exponentially with the payload capacity and sharing loads means smaller helicopters can be used.

Counter-terrorism applications

Future applications of the system will include continuous outdoor and indoor monitoring and tracking of people by using cameras and communications nodes both on the ground and in unmanned helicopters.

As an example, he says the system can detect a fire, localise it and monitor it. Fire fighters can be tracked and monitored inside or outside, and local sensors can provide information on factors like temperature and humidity to reinforce the images produced by cameras. As well as reacting to emergencies and disasters, there are also obvious applications in counter terrorism operations.

Two of the project partners, Flying-Cam SA of Belgium and the Technical University of Berlin, have already made an agreement to commercialise the technology jointly with particular emphasis on developing new products for the film industry, he tells ICT Results.

There is also already a lot of interest in the system from both potential end users, such as fire and police departments, aid agencies and the media, as well as from the commercial organisations which supply equipment and services to them.

“We have invited all of these organisations to the demonstrations and they will be present at the final demonstration next year,” says Ollero.

“Both the people who could use the system we have developed and the companies who can commercialise it and provide it to them are in the loop and interested in carrying on,” he says.

Christian Nielsen | alfa
Further information:
http://cordis.europa.eu/ictresults
http://cordis.europa.eu/ictresults/index.cfm/section/news/tpl/article/BrowsingType/Features/ID/90087

More articles from Information Technology:

nachricht A novel hybrid UAV that may change the way people operate drones
28.03.2017 | Science China Press

nachricht Timing a space laser with a NASA-style stopwatch
28.03.2017 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

All articles from Information Technology >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: A Challenging European Research Project to Develop New Tiny Microscopes

The Institute of Semiconductor Technology and the Institute of Physical and Theoretical Chemistry, both members of the Laboratory for Emerging Nanometrology (LENA), at Technische Universität Braunschweig are partners in a new European research project entitled ChipScope, which aims to develop a completely new and extremely small optical microscope capable of observing the interior of living cells in real time. A consortium of 7 partners from 5 countries will tackle this issue with very ambitious objectives during a four-year research program.

To demonstrate the usefulness of this new scientific tool, at the end of the project the developed chip-sized microscope will be used to observe in real-time...

Im Focus: Giant Magnetic Fields in the Universe

Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.

The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.

Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...

Im Focus: Tracing down linear ubiquitination

Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.

Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...

Im Focus: Perovskite edges can be tuned for optoelectronic performance

Layered 2D material improves efficiency for solar cells and LEDs

In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...

Im Focus: Polymer-coated silicon nanosheets as alternative to graphene: A perfect team for nanoelectronics

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

International Land Use Symposium ILUS 2017: Call for Abstracts and Registration open

20.03.2017 | Event News

CONNECT 2017: International congress on connective tissue

14.03.2017 | Event News

ICTM Conference: Turbine Construction between Big Data and Additive Manufacturing

07.03.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Researchers shoot for success with simulations of laser pulse-material interactions

29.03.2017 | Materials Sciences

Igniting a solar flare in the corona with lower-atmosphere kindling

29.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

As sea level rises, much of Honolulu and Waikiki vulnerable to groundwater inundation

29.03.2017 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>