Airborne drones, mimicking gulls, alter wing shape for agility
Filed under Engineering, Research, Sciences on Tuesday, August 23, 2005.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The military’s next generation of airborne drones won’t be just small and silent – they’ll also dive between buildings, zoom under overpasses and land on apartment balconies.
At least, that’s what University of Florida engineers are working toward.
Funded by the U.S. Air Force and NASA, UF aerospace engineers have built prototypes of 6-inch- to 2-foot- drones capable of squeezing in and out of tight spots in cities — like tiny urban stunt planes. Their secret: seagull-inspired wings that “morph,” or change shape, dramatically during flight, transforming the planes’ stability and agility at the touch of a button on the operator’s remote control.
“If you fly in the urban canyon, through alleys, around parking garages and between buildings, you need to do sharp turns, spins and dives,” said Rick Lind, a UF assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering who heads the project. “That means you need to change the shape of the aircraft during flight.”