Drone vs. the Volcano

On December 31 of 2015, a team of researchers from the University of Liverpool was flying a UAV over Santiaguito Volcano in Guatemala, a large lava dome that grew on the side of a larger volcano called Santa Maria that destroyed itself in 1902. That dome complex is built out of thick, viscous, lava that has mostly solidified by the time it reaches the surface. Although the surface is chilled, molten rock and gases beneath are constantly pushing upwards, trying to enlarge the dome. Every so often, the pressure becomes too much and the lava dome fractures, letting gas escape in an explosive eruption.

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At a restricted airfield at a quiet National Guard base in central California, researchers from the Naval Postgraduate School have loaded a drone they call a flying wing onto what looks like a giant sling shot.

The drone soars up into the air and settles into a racetrack pattern. It’s up so high it’s hard to see, but the sound is inescapable — like a buzzing bee. With the launch of several more, the buzz grows louder as they all settle into that racetrack pattern.

The aim is to get 24 drones into a swarm and have it behave like one.

“In our context, swarming means a large collection of aerial robots working together to do something meaningful or interesting,” says Timothy Chung, who is heading up this project for the Naval Postgraduate School. “The one behavior that we’re testing out today is a leader follower behavior where the aircraft talks amongst themselves.”

Follow The Leader: Drones Learn To Behave In Swarms

GIF: Krista Almanzan/KAZU


University of California, Berkeley engineers are working on cooperative systems to control robots through complex environments. In this demonstration, a ground station uses computer vision to guide the group’s new 13-gram H2Bird ornithopter robot through a window.

The ground station, whose view we see in the second gif, uses real-time motion tracking over a live video stream to send steering guidance to the H2Bird micro air vehicle. With that information, the robot can successfully maneuver through a tight window frame. Their paper on the work is available here.

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SWARM Quadrotors (Aerial Robots): Coordinated Flight of Small Quadcoptors Interacting with Humans

Swarms of Aerial Robots using “inexpensive” small RC quadrotor platforms, autonomous control/guidance algorithms inspired from our work in distributed, cooperative control… and a Vicon motion capture system. 

Aerospace Robotics and Control Laboratory
Department of Aerospace Engineering
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign…


Cheaper Small-Satellite Launching Concept Moves Forward 

Check out NASA’s latest idea to put rockets into space, the Towed Glider Air-Launch System. The idea is for a pilotless drone jet to tow a twin-fuselage rocket-carrying glider from the ground into the atmosphere. Once at around 40,000 feet in altitude, the glider would be released and an onboard rocket engine would boost it higher. Then the satellite-carrying rocket would detach from the glider and fire for the final climb into space. The project, TGALS, is meant to cut down the cost and increase efficiency in injecting small satellites into orbit.

The agency built and successfully tested a one-third-scale prototype of the glider last October. Read more about the project here.

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Drone Waiters in Singapore

By the end of 2015, drones created by Infinium Robotics will serve you food & beer at one of the five restaurants owned by Timbre Group. Woon Junyang (CEO Infinium Robotics) believes that replacing waiters with robots would help alleviate Singapore’s labor crunch and allow human waiters to focus on more interesting higher value tasks.

[read more at techinasia]