bots IN BRIEF
A ROBOT IN THE HAND IS ...
There are lots of innovative ways to land robotic aircraft, from
cables to parachutes to controlled crashes. None of these ways are
especially ideal, with ideal referring to an aircraft that makes a gentle
landing exactly where you want it.
Part of what makes this particular robot (under development at the
Department of Aerospace Engineering at the University of Illinois at
Urbana-Champaign) so cool is the fact that it uses flapping wings for
extra maneuverability and probably a little bit of thrust. This bio-inspired
model (based on birds and bats) can reorient its wings while gliding,
providing glide-phase control without a bunch of extra complicated and
heavy actuators. It's highly effective control, too, and allows a thrown
micro air vehicle (MAV) to make a pinpoint landing on the back of an
Getting robots to perch isn't a new idea, although this level of
control certainly is. In the past, there have been small robotic aircraft
from Stanford's Biomimetics Lab that perform similar pitch-up stall-type
maneuvers to perch on vertical surfaces using little claws, as well as
planes that can perch on wires from MIT.And, of course, there's that
You can get this same type of precision performance out of rotorcraft, but you don't get anywhere close to the level of
endurance that fixed wing aircraft offer, which is why this is potentially an ideal solution: long cruise times combined with
pinpoint landings. If they can get this thing to take off again, they'll have it made.
MAC THE KNIFEFISH
So, what’s this torpedo looking thingy? It’s what the Navy is hoping will
be its next-gen anti-mine robot, called the Knifefish. The Knifefish is going to
be a 20 foot, 3,000 pound robot that will go on 16 hour missions, snooping
around for sea mines using low frequency bandwidth synthetic aperture sonar that’s so effective it can even penetrate beneath
the ocean floor, depending on the makeup of the sediment (according to Navy Capt. Duane Ashton of the Navy’s Maritime
Systems Program Office).
The Knifefish is designed to prowl the seas autonomously and can scan “high-clutter” environments using its sonar to tell
the difference between all sorts of sea mines and random debris. The only downside for now is that the Fish has to come back
to its mothership to upload the information that it vacuums up on its missions.
The torpedo-looking minehunters — developed by General Dynamics — will be in service by 2017, according to Ashton.
26 SERVO 06.2012