Bio-inspired unmanned aircraft capable of soaring like birds

Apr 07, 2014

RMIT University researchers in Melbourne, Australia, are developing bio-inspired unmanned aircraft capable of soaring like birds, boosting energy efficiency and endurance.

In collaboration with Australia's Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO), the research team is aiming to be the first in the world to demonstrate an autonomous that can mimic birds by using updrafts around buildings to stay airborne.

Lead researcher Dr Reece Clothier said soaring birds used positive air flows generated around features such as cliffs or large buildings to
maintain lift.

"This research aims to develop the sensing and control systems that will allow a small fixed-wing unmanned aircraft to achieve the same thing," Dr Clothier said.

"Birds make soaring look easy, but when we try to mimic what they know by instinct, we realise just how far advanced nature is in its designs."

The focus is on proving the feasibility of "urban" soaring, combining real-time sensing of wind with complex flow models to locate possible positive airflows around large buildings. Flying a small aircraft in those updrafts could significantly increase its endurance.

Dr Jennifer Palmer, a Senior Research Scientist in the Aerospace Division of DSTO, said the long-term goal was to design an unmanned aircraft that could autonomously predict airflows in its surrounding environment and - by using this information - minimise its energy consumption, maximise its endurance and avoid areas of high turbulence.

"Small aircraft used for communications relay or surveillance and reconnaissance could greatly benefit by having a means of exploiting naturally occurring updrafts and avoiding the deleterious effects of turbulence in urban environments," Dr Palmer said.

"DSTO undertakes research in a number of areas related to autonomous unmanned aircraft, and this is a great opportunity to engage with academia on a project with both scientific challenges and real-world outcomes."

Explore further: World-first breakthrough for small unmanned aircraft

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

World-first breakthrough for small unmanned aircraft

Feb 06, 2014

Queensland Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) researchers have made what's believed to be a world-first breakthrough for small Unmanned Aircraft (UA), developing an on board system that has enabled a UA to detect ...

VTOL X-Plane program takes off

Mar 19, 2014

For generations, new designs for vertical takeoff and landing aircraft have remained unable to increase top speed without sacrificing range, efficiency or the ability to do useful work. DARPA's VTOL Experimental Plane (VTOL X-Plane) program seeks to overcome these challenges through innovative cross-pollination between th ...

Israeli official says drones could replace planes

Apr 21, 2013

Israel's air force is on track to developing drones that within four to five decades would carry out nearly every battlefield operation executed today by piloted aircraft, a high-ranking Israeli officer told The Associated ...

Recommended for you

How polymer banknotes were invented

17 hours ago

The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) and CSIRO's 20-year "bank project" resulted in the introduction of the polymer banknote – the first ever of its kind, and the most secure form of currency in the world. ...

Enabling the hearing impaired to locate human speakers

18 hours ago

New wireless microphones systems developed at EPFL should allow the hearing impaired to aurally identify, even with closed eyes, the location of the person speaking. This new technology will be used in classrooms ...

Researcher explores drone-driven crop management

Nov 25, 2014

A flock of pigeons flies over the soybean field where J. Craig Williams is standing. He reaches down and rips off a brown pod from one of the withered plants and splits it open. Grabbing a tiny bean between ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.