On Aug. 11, 2005, Rick Lind, a University of Florida assistant professor of aerospace engineering, examines a prototype of a tiny surveillance airplane that can change shape during flight. Mimicking seagulls, the plane’s wings can turn up, level out, and turn down, enabling it to become more agile or more stable as desired. The plane is a step toward tiny military drones that can soar over cities and dive between buildings to shoot surveillance photos, test for chemical or biological weapons or perform other tasks.
The military’s next generation of airborne drones won’t be just small and silent – they’ll also dive between buildings, zoom under overpasses and land on apartment balconies.
At least, that’s what University of Florida engineers are working toward.
Funded by the U.S. Air Force and NASA, UF aerospace engineers have built prototypes of 6-inch- to 2-foot- drones capable of squeezing in and out of tight spots in cities — like tiny urban stunt planes. Their secret: seagull-inspired wings that “morph,” or change shape, dramatically during flight, transforming the planes’ stability and agility at the touch of a button on the operator’s remote control.
Rick Lind | EurekAlert!
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