NASA’s New Drones
NASA has two new toys to play with, and the drones just may represent the future of aircraft.
Funded by NASA's Small Business Innovative Research, or SBIR, program, Vanilla Aircraft and Black Swift Technologies have created a pair of truly unique aircraft that are made for researching some remote areas.
Swift Technologies created the S2, a small UAS that was designed to be able to take off anywhere and fly for up to 90 minutes. The S2 has an integrated radiometer and sensors that it used to measure the amount of water in the soil or vegetation. NASA hopes this information will help predict floods, monitor droughts, and help make crops more productive.
Vanilla Aircrafts VA001 is bigger than the S2, but still smaller than NASA's Global Hawk UAV. The VA001 can fly at up to 15,000 feet about sea level with a 35-pound payload. It can cover thousands of miles in a single flight, and withstand temperatures down to -40°F. It needs to be able to fly around Antarctica to map ice, and Vanilla made a drone that can do that for 56 hours.
MantaDroid: Part Robot, Part Manta Ray
Researchers at the National University of Singapore (NUS) have developed a robot that can swim like a manta ray. They call it the MantaDroid, and it is the latest example of bio-mimicry.
The MantaDroid can swim up to 0.7 meters-per-second for up to 10 hours, and the researchers believe that is could play a significant role in underwater surveillance. It turns out that manta rays are actually considered to be one of nature's most efficient swimmers, and they're more capable of swimming through turbulent seas than other aquatic animals.
It took the team more than two years to design the MantaDroid, including 40 different fin prototypes to find a set that mimicked the man ray's movements. The fins are made using PVC sheets and they are controlled by a single electric motor in each fin.
Next, the researchers are going to move the MantaDroid out of the pool, and see if it can maneuver through actual underwater currents.
China Unveils ‘Magical Island-Maker’
Chinese engineers have a dredging ship that is being called the "magical island-maker." The crazy thing is that it actually works, and it has made islands in the South China Sea, which it is now using to stake claim over the area.
According to a BBC report, the vessel's actual name is Tian Kun Hao. At 140 meters long, the designers say that it is the biggest of its kind in Asia, and it can dig up to 6,000 cubic meters, about the size of the Goodyear blimp, an hour from 35 meters below the surface.
It digs up the sand and mud and piles it up to form new land. Smaller ships have done this in the past, and China even has a couple of military bases on the new islands as it tries to tighten its grasp in to the highly sought-after sea.
This is Engineering By Design with David Mantey.