Researchers at MIT flew an autonomous robotic plane in an enclosed area around obstacles, demonstrating that it is possible to build a self-navigational, fixed-wing vehicle that can fly at high speeds safely without the use of GPS. (Source: MIT)
Wow, I have to say this is a pretty amazing video to watch, especially knowing more about how they did it. I would think this could be very useful in collision avoidance of all types. Maybe it could even apply to conventional automobiles and race cars (though I suspect the potential for a crash is part of the thrill of racing).
This looks cool. I love the idea of GPS-free flighs with the saftey that GPS offers. I think it would be great as an aid for pilots too. This would be good for humanitarian drops in remote areas that are isolated or cut off in natural disasters.
I can't wait to see the evolution of this. There are lots of other moving objects in the sky. Anything that can avoid or deter birds would be fantastic for the aviation industry.
That's probably a big leap, Beth, just as it would be a big leap to transfer the technology to an environment that is not pre-programmed for the flying craft. Yet I could see this technology eventually getting incorporated into drones.
Not having to pre-program the environment into the computer seems to be a common theme in many of the comments and on first brush, it seems like not attaining it would be, in a way, a failure or limitation of the ultimate design of this system.
However, how many humans would be able to fly a plane through an unfamiliar, enclosed environment without stalling or colliding with objects? Switching to a helicopter type device would help us, because it could come to a complete stop relatively quickly without stalling. But if we were in a fixed-wing aircraft which had to maintain forward motion at a minimum airspeed, with no do-overs or a re-set button, I think few people would be able to accomplish it.
If you play video games, think of getting to a new level, or running a new race course, in a game where you HAVE to keep moving to keep from getting killed, passed or disabled. It generally takes many, many tries before a gamer can familiarize his or herself with the environment and subsequently negotiate it at full speed successfully.
While the goal may be the ideal, it is asking a lot of the onboard computer of a fixed winged aircraft to do something that our human brains and senses cannot do. Again, in a rotary type device, it is entirely feasible.
With a better understanding of materials’ response to load and temperature, researchers could potentially use the knowledge to improve design. The research could even help geologists studying plate tectonics.
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