Inside Unmanned Systems

AUG-SEP 2018

Inside Unmanned Systems provides actionable business intelligence to decision-makers and influencers operating within the global UAS community. Features include analysis of key technologies, policy/regulatory developments and new product design.

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72 unmanned systems inside   August/September 2018 MARINE INNOVATION is not on major trade routes, so there is little incentive to monitor it, other than scientific endeavors," Bousquet said. "If we could use low-cost drones to monitor it, it would be extremely useful." Ocean-monitoring robots also can help with search and rescue missions, keep an eye on fish stocks, watch pro- tected areas, and gather data for me- teorology to, for instance, better model the track of hurricanes, Bousquet said. "Understanding and monitoring ocean garbage is also a very important task," he noted. "It seems to be having a very large scale impact on marine life, and by extension, humans." BOTH AN AIRCRAFT AND SAILBOAT Drones currently have limited endur- ance, ranging from a few hours with batteries to a few days with gas. One way to extend their range is to have them harvest energy from their envi- ronment, such as from the wind or sun. A number of high-altitude, long- endurance solar-powered airplanes do exist, such as A irbus' Zephy r. However, "there is barely enough en- ergy in solar power to sustain f light," Bousquet said. As such, to f ly for days, solar-powered aircraft are typically severely limited in how much payload they can carry, or they must be huge to catch as much sunlight as possible and therefore are potentially prohibi- tively expensive. In contrast, Bousquet's background is in wind energy. Before his doctoral research, he worked at Makani, which is now part of X, the research arm of Google's parent company Alphabet. Makani aims to lower the cost of wind- generated electricity "using tethered gliders rather than traditional tur- bines," Bousquet said. Recently, Bousquet and his col- leagues investigated the aerodynam- ics of albatrosses. They focused on the species known as the wandering Upcoming tests will see how the UNAv performs when equipped with a sail. albatross, which is about the size of a small drone, with a weight of 10 kilo- grams and a three-meter wingspan. "It f lies 1,000 or more kilometers per day, the stronger the w ind the better," Bousquet said. "A few years ago, a team of scientists tagged an albatross with GPS; the bird used a storm with 100-plus kilometer-per- hour winds to f ly over 1,000 kilome- ters in just 10 hours. This is totally mind-blowing to me." The researchers found the me- chanics that enable albatrosses to cover vast distances while expend- ing minimal energ y is their ability to ride in and out of high- and low- speed layers of air. Specif ically, the birds can acquire momentum from higher, faster layers of air to propel themselves and soar in lower, slower layers w ithout hav ing to v ir tually ever f lap their wings. The scientists then noted the phys- ics of albatross f light was very similar to that of sailboat travel. Boats can use sails to acquire momentum from the wind and use it to push against slower- moving water. Now, Bousquet and his colleagues have designed UNAv, an unmanned nautical air-water vehicle, which is "a wind-powered drone inspired by both sailboats and albatrosses," he said. "It can be seen as either a f lying sailboat or an 'albatross' with an added sail and keel." Ultimately, if the robot can harvest all the energy it needs for f light from the wind, "there is no need for refuel- ing, so a robotic albatross could sur- vey and study the oceans for weeks or months at a time, traveling tens of thousands of kilometers in a single mission," Bousquet said.

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