The Navy is hoping to one day run a huge chunk of its fleet on biofuels. So the Navy’s advanced researchers — and their partners at the U.S. Department of Agriculture — are turning to a tiny robotic helicopter to help them figure out which crop they might be able to convert into their fuel of the future.
The experiment is taking place over 35,000 acres of Maui soil, on the fields of Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar, the state’s largest commercial sugar plantation. That’s the site of a $10 million, five-year gamble to test which of plantation’s crops might work as grow-your-jetfuel. The drone helicopter will track every temperature fluctuation and sprouting bud emerging into the Hawaiian sun......
.....Nevertheless, the Office of Naval Research and the Agriculture Department are wondering whether Maui’s mix of plants, tropical sun, and nutrient-rich soil can produce a bumper crop of clean, renewable energy. Enter the Leptron corporation’s tiny drone helicopter, the Avenger. It’s about to be the Navy’s robotic horticulturist in Hawaii.
The Department of Agriculture recently bought an Avenger — not to be confused with the next-generation Predator drone — so its thermal imaging cameras can gather “small plot specific data,” particularly about crop temperature. The department wants a drone instead of a manned helicopter so it can keep the Avenger hovering over the patch of farmland and taking pictures longer than a human being could handle. The idea is that the Avenger’s persistent stare will alert researchers to any problems with the crops — including jatropha, sweet sorghum, and sugar cane — before the entire experiment is jeopardized. The team figures that Hawaii is an ideal venue for the experiement: it’s a high-fertility environment that’s already home to the Pacific Fleet. “A perfect storm of opportunity,” is how the Navy’s top energy official described Hawaii in 2010......
.....But the first lookout for whether grow-your-own fuel is even viable will be the diminutive, svelte Avenger, whose main rotor is merely six feet in diameter. In addition to optional remote-control or programmable autonomous flight options, it comes with a pair of video goggles, which Leptron calls a “Personal Media Viewer,” to give a person below a drone’s eye view. Watching the grass grow was never this captivating.
Interesting. I was precisely looking for info a couple of days ago on a "Schweizer RoboCopter", and I guess this must be an improved version of the same project.Grey Havoc said:
02 is:Ian33 said:Picture 02 (or a shape and configuration that is so spookily similar it boggles the mind!) plagued the Pennines from '92 until around '98 / '99 time frame when the sightings halted.
I'll have to go visit Bradford archives and see if I can get the articles and letters to local newspapers because many people saw this threading through valleys and snatched glimpses from tops of the peaks very early in the mornings.
Interestingly enough an airliner coming into Manchester was nearly in collision with a very similar dark fast wedge shaped airframe. Made quite a stir at the time I can tell you!
In a world where warfare is fast becoming fielded by remote controlled and autonomous robots, innovation is the key to victory. The most technologically advanced superpower can see more, plan better, and attack from further away than its inferior adversaries. What better to revolutionize the drone and robotics industry but the brilliant minds of our children? That’s what the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the Defense Department’s research and development arm, thinks too.
It’s the Adaptive Vehicle Make project through a pilot program called Manufacturing Experimentation and Outreach, and it’s slated to reach a thousand schools in and out of the country, roping in the brightest minds to develop robotics and advance technology in new and interesting ways.
Funded by the Department of Defense, the program comes with a steep cost: The DoD wants unlimited rights to everything the students build. That’s right: equipment, tests, source code… the whole nine yards. It’s crowdsourcing at its very best.
Having pushed unmanned systems further than any other U.S. service, the Army is preparing to take the next steps, fielding a vertical-takeoff-and-landing (VTOL) aircraft and raising manned-unmanned teaming to a higher level. While VTOL will provide the U.S. Army with new basing, operating and sensing options, teaming is central to its plans for future rotorcraft that could be optionally manned.
The Army is embarked on the two-track journey to a vertical-lift unmanned aircraft, fielding an existing system as a quick-reaction capability while developing requirements for a follow-on VTOL UAS program of record. Three Boeing A160T Hummingbird unmanned helicopters are scheduled to be deployed to Afghanistan in June, but the second track hit a bump in the road in February when the U.S. Navy canceled its planned Medium-Range Maritime Unmanned Aerial System (MRMUAS) program.
In the meantime, the Operationally Responsive Systems unit is also promoting a unique offering to the U.S. Air Force to train its growing cadre of General Atomics Reaper and Predator UAS pilots to conduct takeoffs and landings. Predators and Reapers suffer a high incident rate during launch and recovery. This is partially due to the latency of satellite communications used for controlling the UAS. Pilots often overcompensate for movements at the controls because of the latency of response to their commands.
The strategy is to sell training services for Predator and Reaper pilots using a Northrop Grumman-owned aircraft, called the Sandstorm, and an Internet-based control system, called the Longshot. Sandstorm—an actual 15-ft.-wingspan unmanned aircraft designed to mimic the flight characteristics of the Predator and Reaper—would be controlled remotely by students anywhere with a wideband Internet connection. Northrop's system replicates the controls of a Reaper/Predator pilot, including the feedback of the stick and throttle. Ten Sandstorms have been produced by Montana-based Unmanned Systems Inc., and the team experimented with them long before cementing its partnership in April, says Karl Purdy, manager of new UAS programs at Northrop Grumman.
Purdy estimates that the project will pay for itself by reducing the number of costly Air Force mishaps in the field. “We believe it will save them $75 million per year,” he says. Each Sandstorm costs less than $100,000, a fraction of the Reaper's multimillion-dollar price tag. The aircraft, which has a 15-ft. wingspan and is 8 ft. long, is roughly one-quarter the size of Reaper.
The Sandstorm/Longshot can perform 100 landings for the price of one by a Reaper, he says. Today, pilots train for launch and recovery using actual Predators and Reapers, causing substantial wear and tear on the platforms. Northrop's vision is to sell services to the Air Force to qualify more experienced launch-and-recovery pilots by providing them with more stick time on the Sandstorm/Longshot system than they would receive in current training.
The Internet-based model would allow for training at various locations, and a safety pilot is always present with the Sandstorm to take control of the aircraft in the event of a student error or loss of Internet connection.
Purdy argues that actual hardware is needed to teach launch-and-recovery operations because simulators cannot properly emulate the environment, including latency of controls for remote operations. This latency, or delay, was a contributing factor in many accidents because pilots tend to over-command the stick if they do not see instant feedback on the screen when operating the UAS; thus, they can run off a runway or descend too quickly while landing.
Northrop Grumman officials say the technology is applicable to other UAS fleets because it enables operators to program in the flight characteristics of aircraft such as the Hunter UAS or a bevy of Israeli models sold globally.