To Soar – It’s a UAV

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It soars like a bird; it looks like a plane it’s a UAV. I’m Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet. Unmanned Air Vehicles may look like oversized model airplanes, but they’re outfitted with sophisticated computers. The computers are programmed to enable the robot planes to seek out and to ride thermals – rising currents of warm air, just like birds.

“In one flight we actually climbed over 2000 feet in one thermal and we demonstrated that we could soar for an hour. But the flight time was limited more by the batteries for the computers than anything. It’s likely that you could soar a lot longer.”

Michael Allen is an aerospace engineer at Dryden Flight Research Center. He says teaching UAV’s to soar will add to their usefulness.

“Soaring can benefit unmanned vehicles or UAV’s in many ways. Currently they’re used by the Marines for surveillance and reconnaissance in Iraq. They can be used for weather monitoring, border control, forest fire monitoring, even police work. Eventually they may even be used to explore other planets such as Mars. Mars is especially attractive because we know there are large dust devils there and a lot of strong vertical air currents. The next step in this research is to apply it to an operational vehicle. The significance of this work is the large benefit that a vehicle can get. Basically for free a vehicle can stay twice as it could have, four times as long as it could have. Some simulations show that an airplane can stay up all day instead of only two hours. So the benefit is very big.”

Pulse of the Planet is presented by the National Science Foundation, with additional support from NASA. I’m Jim Metzner.

To Soar - It's a UAV

Unmanned Air Vehicles are being used for everything from weather monitoring to reconnaissance in Iraq. The next stop may be Mars.
Air Date:02/26/2010
Scientist:
Transcript:

music

It soars like a bird; it looks like a plane it's a UAV. I'm Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet. Unmanned Air Vehicles may look like oversized model airplanes, but they're outfitted with sophisticated computers. The computers are programmed to enable the robot planes to seek out and to ride thermals - rising currents of warm air, just like birds.

"In one flight we actually climbed over 2000 feet in one thermal and we demonstrated that we could soar for an hour. But the flight time was limited more by the batteries for the computers than anything. It's likely that you could soar a lot longer."

Michael Allen is an aerospace engineer at Dryden Flight Research Center. He says teaching UAV's to soar will add to their usefulness.

"Soaring can benefit unmanned vehicles or UAV's in many ways. Currently they're used by the Marines for surveillance and reconnaissance in Iraq. They can be used for weather monitoring, border control, forest fire monitoring, even police work. Eventually they may even be used to explore other planets such as Mars. Mars is especially attractive because we know there are large dust devils there and a lot of strong vertical air currents. The next step in this research is to apply it to an operational vehicle. The significance of this work is the large benefit that a vehicle can get. Basically for free a vehicle can stay twice as it could have, four times as long as it could have. Some simulations show that an airplane can stay up all day instead of only two hours. So the benefit is very big."

Pulse of the Planet is presented by the National Science Foundation, with additional support from NASA. I'm Jim Metzner.