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 Information integration and artificial intelligence for better diagnosis and therapy decisions
24.05.2017 | Fraunhofer MEVIS - Institut für Bildgestützte Medizin

nachricht World's thinnest hologram paves path to new 3-D world
18.05.2017 | RMIT University

All articles from Information Technology >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Can the immune system be boosted against Staphylococcus aureus by delivery of messenger RNA?

Staphylococcus aureus is a feared pathogen (MRSA, multi-resistant S. aureus) due to frequent resistances against many antibiotics, especially in hospital infections. Researchers at the Paul-Ehrlich-Institut have identified immunological processes that prevent a successful immune response directed against the pathogenic agent. The delivery of bacterial proteins with RNA adjuvant or messenger RNA (mRNA) into immune cells allows the re-direction of the immune response towards an active defense against S. aureus. This could be of significant importance for the development of an effective vaccine. PLOS Pathogens has published these research results online on 25 May 2017.

Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) is a bacterium that colonizes by far more than half of the skin and the mucosa of adults, usually without causing infections....

Im Focus: A quantum walk of photons

Physicists from the University of Würzburg are capable of generating identical looking single light particles at the push of a button. Two new studies now demonstrate the potential this method holds.

The quantum computer has fuelled the imagination of scientists for decades: It is based on fundamentally different phenomena than a conventional computer....

Im Focus: Turmoil in sluggish electrons’ existence

An international team of physicists has monitored the scattering behaviour of electrons in a non-conducting material in real-time. Their insights could be beneficial for radiotherapy.

We can refer to electrons in non-conducting materials as ‘sluggish’. Typically, they remain fixed in a location, deep inside an atomic composite. It is hence...

Im Focus: Wafer-thin Magnetic Materials Developed for Future Quantum Technologies

Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.

Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...

Im Focus: World's thinnest hologram paves path to new 3-D world

Nano-hologram paves way for integration of 3-D holography into everyday electronics

An Australian-Chinese research team has created the world's thinnest hologram, paving the way towards the integration of 3D holography into everyday...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Marine Conservation: IASS Contributes to UN Ocean Conference in New York on 5-9 June

24.05.2017 | Event News

AWK Aachen Machine Tool Colloquium 2017: Internet of Production for Agile Enterprises

23.05.2017 | Event News

Dortmund MST Conference presents Individualized Healthcare Solutions with micro and nanotechnology

22.05.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

How herpesviruses win the footrace against the immune system

26.05.2017 | Life Sciences

Water forms 'spine of hydration' around DNA, group finds

26.05.2017 | Life Sciences

First Juno science results supported by University of Leicester's Jupiter 'forecast'

26.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>