Yesterday, DID covered the successful robot cars in DARPA’s Grand Challenge 2005, and the implications for the US military’s future. When we think of aerial UAVs, we don’t usually think of obstacles, navigating terrain, etc. – but it can be just as important.
NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards AFB, CA wants small UAVs to detect and use thermal updrafts to stay aloft for longer periods of time, just like birds and sailplanes. eDefense Online describes the Autonomous Soaring Project and its “Cloud Swift” test UAVs, which shut off their engines and circle to stay within detected updrafts. These modified model sailplanes gained an average altitude of 565 feet in 23 updrafts during recent tests, with a 2,770 foot ascent in their best case.