April 5, 2011
You’ve heard of the UAV (unmanned air vehicle). Now check out the AUV (autonomous underwater vehicle): The REMUS 6000. It looks like a yellow torpedo. It’s a lot smarter. And it dives a lot deeper.
Yesterday, the tenacious underwater ‘bot located at long last the remains of Air France flight 447, which plunged into the Atlantic Ocean on June 1, 2009.
The REMUS 6000 (Remote Environmental Monitoring UnitS) is the deepest diving AUV ever made, able to descend 6,000 meters, or almost 20,000 feet, below the ocean’s surface. It was developed jointly by the U.S. Naval Oceanographic Office, the Office of Naval Research, and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.
Officials know only that the Airbus A330 wide-body jet encountered severe, high-altitude thunderstorms about three and a half hours into a flight from Rio de Janeiro to Paris, then fell from the sky. None of the 228 people onboard survived. Fifty-one bodies and some debris were found in the weeks following the accident, but search teams came up with precious little else, particularly answers.
What was clear was that the rest of the jet, including its black boxes (cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder), and the remaining bodies, were somewhere deep in the fissures of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge more than two miles beneath the surface.
The REMUS 6000 was the ticket, able to cruise at up to four knots (4.6 mph) for up to 22 hours. Three vehicles equipped with an array of advanced sensors—including a high-resolution digital camera and side-scan sonar able to ping 2,000 feet out to both sides—combed the bottom in a lawn-mowing pattern. Launched and recovered from the vessel Alucia, which arrived on station March 25, the new effort marked the fourth attempt to locate the aircraft, and the second with the REMUS 6000. In a week, one of the AUVs found its quarry at 12,800 feet, about 2.5 miles down. They’ll narrow their search in the coming days for the black boxes.
Here are some photos of the airliner’s remains on the ocean floor at the web site of the French Bureau d’Enquêtes et d’Analyses pour la Sécurité de l’Aviation Civile, better known as the BEA. Together with Airbus and Air France, the BEA can now move forward with ideas for bringing pieces to the surface, and, perhaps, closure to the families.
Also, check out this video with scientists and engineers from the Waitt Institute for Discovery, which owns two REMUS 6000s, discussing a different project involving the AUV:
March 28, 2011
Wow. Aviation pioneer Otto Lilienthal would have loved this. German automation company Festo has built a “SmartBird” modeled on the herring gull that, according to the company, can take off, fly, and land autonomously—just by flapping its wings.
The design features a number of innovations, including active torsion of the wings and a torso that bends aerodynamically. And it only weighs a pound.
Strange that the video doesn’t show the thing taking off and landing. But it’s pretty cool to watch in flight (via Kurzweilai.net).
September 30, 2010
This MIT researcher’s work is cool enough—he’s trying to develop a small UAV that can land on a perch like a bird.
But this slow-mo video of an owl coming in for a landing is what really wowed me:
September 23, 2010
The bumper stickers available at the door read, “My other vehicle is unmanned.”
More and more, that’s becoming true for a variety of government agencies—and not just the defense department—as was evident at the UAV Technology Fair held yesterday at the Rayburn House office building in Washington, D.C. There were models of UAVs and plenty of vivid video graphics designed to show policy makers how far remotely piloted aircraft have come. The third Congressional UAV Caucus event for 2010, the fair was organized by Congressmen Howard “Buck” McKeon of California and Alan Mollohan of West Virginia.
Clustered in the north foyer on the second floor of the building, with floor-to-ceiling windows that looked across Independence Avenue at the Capitol dome, officials from the military, industry, law enforcement, and NASA watched high-definition videos taken from UAVs that far surpassed the typical scenes we’re accustomed to seeing on the evening news. Visitors, including the general public, were invited to touch models of the vehicles and ask questions.
There were plenty of odd shapes and sizes, such as the Aurora Flight Sciences backpackable UAV called the Skate, after the flat marine animal of the same name. Several UAVs claim to be backpackable, but, says Aurora’s Patti Woodside, “When a soldier is already carrying 12o pounds of gear, he’s not going to add another 15 pounds.” Aurora’s answer: a tactical field UAV still in the prototype phase, only 2.5 pounds with a 2.5-mile flying radius, and a battery the size of a cell phone that keeps the UAV in the air for an hour. The whole thing folds up to the size of a laptop computer, with two props the size of a human hand that are held onto the vehicle by magnets. It takes off vertically, then travels forward at 55 miles an hour. Coolest of all: It was developed by four Aurora employees in their 20s who begged for $3,000 in seed money from the boss. “It started as a nights and weekends thing,” says program manager George Kiwada, “and went from a platform for testing [flight] control to what we always wanted to build: a UAV.”
The National Institute of Justice was there demonstrating a rotary UAV that is helping law enforcement personnel in Texas with their narcotics missions, search and rescue, forensics, and surveillance. Another rotary UAV, from Weber State University, had four props, two of which turn in one direction and two in the other, for stability. Persistent observation is the whole point. “It’s not important for this model to be a greyhound,” says Brad Stringer, Executive Director of the Utah Center for Aeronautical Innovation & Design, while holding the three-pound UAV with one hand.
Lording over the room were scaled-down models of the ever popular Global Hawk, which has revolutionized aerial warfare and surveillance. NASA is even using one to do hurricane studies. And they don’t need to keep it in Florida. They fly it leisurely from the Dryden Flight Research Center in California, all the way across the country and out into the Atlantic for hours on end, then all the way back to California. A 24-hour shift still requires three pilot-shifts on the ground at the joy stick.
An overriding question: Why the need for a UAV caucus on Capitol Hill? Isn’t there enough demand for them without worrying about lobbying? “Great question,” answered Andy Graham, legislative fellow to McKeon, by email. “There are still a lot of misconceptions about unmanned systems. The common perception of the UAV is the Predator B Reaper drone firing missiles at terrorists.
While the Reaper does perform this valuable mission, it represents only a very small fraction of the sizes, types, and missions that unmanned systems perform. As the technology and the demand for it evolve, existing airspace regulations become obsolete. One of the missions of the Caucus is to advocate for the military, industry, NASA, the Department of Homeland Security, the FAA, and other stakeholders to seek fair and equitable solutions to challenges created by UAV operations in the national air space. The Caucus brings together U.S. Representatives from both political parties who believe in the utility and longevity of unmanned aerial vehicles, and want to see their use expanded.”
September 20, 2010
This looks like fun work.
And the people on the SMAVNET Project think they set a record for the largest number of flying robots (10) deployed at a single time outdoors.
« Previous Page — Next Page »