Industry professionals are growing excited with the development of an unmanned aircraft that is inspired by the flight of birds. Created by engineers and scientists the goal of the project is to imitate their soaring and gliding patterns. Birds make gliding look easy but it’s surprisingly complex to replicate mechanically.
Birds fly in a way that conserves energy, rising and dropping with the wind. In urban areas, winds whip around buildings causing and air current that is ideal for supporting a bird and hopefully – a light aircraft. Ideally, the aircraft could be able to fly in urban environments, drifting on the updrafts and airflow caused by tall buildings.
A team of scientists at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia is collaborating with the Aerospace Division of the Defense Science and Technology Organization on the research.
According to Dr. Jennifer Palmer, a Senior Research Scientist in the DSTO, the long term goal was to design an aircraft that could predict and capitalize on airflow patterns in the environment, thus minimizing its energy consumption and avoiding turbulence.
Ultimately such aircraft could be used for communications, surveillance and reconnaissance in both urban and rural environments. The ability to soar and ride air currents will allow them to go further with less fuel, improving the range and cost effectiveness of such devices.
Investments are continually being made in technologies that can advance homeland security. Particularly unmanned devices such as these which can gather intelligence while being operated remotely – without putting personnel in harm’s way as manned aircraft do.
This opens new avenues of research and design for experienced engineers. Employers in the public and private sector hire engineering professionals for projects that will lower costs, increase security and make it easier to compete internationally.
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