8/25/2012

Mosquito, or Government drone?

Smack! Was that a Mosquito You Killed, Or a Drone?



Johns Hopkins researchers help develop MAV …Or maybe that high-agility flying robot was a tasty snack for an artificial toad. In a real-life nod to the classic science fiction novel “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” a team of researchers at Johns Hopkins University is helping to develop a micro aerial vehicle (MAV for short) that will be no bigger than a bug.

So, What Good is a Micro Aerial Vehicle?

An MAV would be used for military reconnaissance operations in urban areas, where densely packed buildings and unpredictable winds create unique challenges for a small flying device – no surprise here, since the Hopkins research is partly funded by the U.S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research.


And then there’s the Internet

On the other hand, the Internet started as a defense-funded project and look where we are now. As highly fuel efficient micro machines, MAV’s could become an essential part of the sustainable tech landscape, for example in wind turbine maintenance and other clean energy tasks, data collection, and  environmental monitoring. They could also be useful in emergency response, especially as the “search” part of a search and rescue operation

Secret of the Hopkins MAV

Student researchers Tras Lin and Lingxiao Zheng are spearheading the Johns Hopkins contribution to MAV research, using high-speed video cameras to analyze the way a butterfly’s body moves in flight. The advanced cameras enabled the researchers to separate one-fifth of a second of movement into 600 frames. According to Lin, the breakdown shows that the insect’s body in flight shares some characteristics with the body movements of figure skaters, who use their arm position to modify their speed while spinning.
According to Phil Sneiderman of Johns Hopkins, the key discovery so far has been to recognize that changes in the distribution of the insect’s body mass play an important role in its ability to perform intricate maneuvers while flapping its wings. Previous research into flight dynamics had overlooked this area of study and focused primarily on wing movements.

Look Out! More MAV’s on the Way

If something rings a bell about this project, you may recall that last year DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, released photos of the Hummingbird, a tiny, ultra lightweight remote-controlled flying vehicle designed to resemble an actual hummingbird. The Hummingbird was designed specifically to let troops in urban combat to get a look around corners and inside buildings.
The military’s interest in cutting edge urban combat technologies is not a new development. In an eerily prescient 1999 report prepared by the Foreign Military Studies Office at Fort Leavenworth, researchers noted that the frequency and scale of urban combat is “likely to increase,” further noting that:
“From early history on, urban combat has required masses of dismounted infantrymen, a significant amount of time, combined arms and astonishing quantities of ammunition. The assaulting force runs the risk of its own attrition by combat, insufficient supplies and epidemic diseases. Assaults on cities have resulted in heavy military and civilian casualties and shattered cities. Modern urban combat has often destroyed operations tempo, drained logistics stockpiles and ruined the reputations of promising commanders.”
That report must have been overlooked when the previous Administration planned its operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The current Administration seems to have absorbed the lessons with a focus on long-distance air and sea power, which by nature involves a renewed effort on cutting edge technology, so look for lots more than flying bug-type gadgets in the future.
Image: Mosquito (could outweigh an MAV). License Attribution Some rights reserved by tanakawho.

1 comment:

  1. This is a comment on this subject Borrowed from a different site....


    Espionagem e alta tecnologia... says:
    08/18/2012 at 4:50 PM

    [...] [...]
    S says:
    08/20/2012 at 6:46 AM

    For the last seven years I have kept my mouth shut, but I was part of a DARPA working group and conference in 2005 where, as part of our assigned project and mandate, this exact system was proposed, and it had capacities not discussed in this article too. We were conceptualizing and sketching out system requirements, capabilities, and basic doctrine on a number of levels for a variety of technologies along a specific purpose, and I could independently prove this assertion and my personal involvement to any independent analysis required by any journalist. Now that they are admitting this project, I don’t feel I have to keep my mouth shut regarding THIS technology or program, unlike the others I do. In that 2005 conference, a scientist proposed using such devices as part of our mission parameter, and I asked, point blank, whether or not it was realistic to include them, and the capabilities he mentioned, and if it was at the 30 year mark (our maximum time horizons),, 20 year mark, or what. The guy, who conceptually detailed it with FAR more operational detail than I would have thought, regarding specific capacities, uses, etc., said “it will be ready a LOT sooner than you think…”. It occurs to me that based on what he said, his particular expertise, evident specific technical knowledge and the programs and projects he worked on when he was not at this conference, that if this is what they are admitting to having in production now, the next gen prototypes will ALREADY be of significantly advanced capacity. So yes, believe it. Since the conference, health and family matters have kept me out of the field, away from the invite only conferences, classified and confidential briefings, and I have done zero official work, but based on specific disclosures from the most credible and educated, official capacity personnel, I am sure this is no joke. Take it for whatever you want. The USA has a great number of brilliant people at DARPA, and brings in talent. In a number of ways for specific purposes, reality checks, etc. I have never been so impressed by the intellectual caliber, organisational proficiency, and clear purpose, especially in their ability to basically herd a bunch of cats (the varied geniuses assembled) into a specific purpose and productive end as I saw with DARPA.

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