by Jeff Eckert
Wings Over Mars
Artist’s concept of the ARES
marsplane. Courtesy of NASA.
ARES instrument layout.
Courtesy of NASA.
A fascinating UAV-based concept
is NASA’s Aerial Regional-scale
Environmental Survey of Mars (ARES)
— a proposed Mars Scout mission. It
is intended to extend the Mars
exploration program by making
measurements in three areas: crustal
magnetism; atmospheric boundary
layer composition, chemistry, and
dynamics; and near-surface water. In
operation, the autonomous powered
airplane will be delivered in a
protective “aeroshell,” then released
after entering the red planet’s atmosphere. After separation, the wings
and tail will unfold, and the aircraft
will pull up and begin its mission.
The fun part is that NASA has
made available a detailed flight
simulator that allows the operator to
program a mission and watch it
progress. Available for both Windows
and Mac OS X, you can download it
gov/MarsFlight/ index.htm. But be
patient. It takes up about 750 MB, so
both download and installation are
slow. You can also get a pdf or jpg
file that allows you to print, cut out,
and fold your own scale model. Just
Bot With An Appetite
Basic configuration of the EATR bot.
Courtesy of Robot Technology, Inc.
While most bot designers
agonize over how to provide enough
power to keep the machinery
running for extended periods, the
Energetically Autonomous Tactical
Robot (EATR), an ongoing program
at Robotic Technology, Inc. (www.
circumvents the problem by creating
a biologically inspired bot that
actually forages for its own food.
Much like a great white shark
cruising the beach for tasty tourists,
EATR “can find, ingest, and extract
energy from biomass in the environment (and other organically-based
energy sources), as well as use
conventional and alternative fuels
(such as gasoline, heavy fuel,
kerosene, diesel, propane, coal,
cooking oil, and solar) when
suitable.” According to the developer,
it can travel about 100 miles on a
meal of 150 lb of vegetation.
The system has four basic
subsystems: an autonomous control
system with sensors; a manipulator
system (robot arm and end effectors);
a hybrid engine system (external
combustion engine that charges a
battery); and a mobility platform
(either fully robotic or a modified
standard automotive vehicle).
EATR is entering the proof-of-concept phase, which will focus on its
ability to recognize edible biomass
sources, ingest them, and generate
electrical power. Phase 3 will lead to
commercialization in several military
and civilian areas. If you see one
coming down the street, try not to
look too delectable.
UAV Employs Fuel Cells
The Ion Tiger fuel cell powered UAV.
Courtesy of the Office
of Naval Research.
Beating the battery dilemma in
a different way is the Ion Tiger UAV,
under development at the Naval
Research Lab ( www.nrl.navy.mil)
in Washington, DC, for various
surveillance missions. It tests a 500W
hydrogen-powered polymer fuel cell
design that allows it to carry heavier
payloads over longer distances than
earlier battery-powered designs.
It also provides better stealth
characteristics because of its small
size, reduced noise, low heat
signature, and total lack of emissions.
The Tiger, which is slated for a trial
flight soon, is expected to provide a
24 hour flight endurance with a 5 lb
(2.7 kg) payload.
BMI Achieves Mind Over
At the end of March, Honda
8 SERVO 06.2009