First hovering ornithopter NAV

DARPA has awarded an extension to AeroVironment for their work on the Nano Air Vehicle project. ┬áThe prototype seen above, called Mercury, is an ornithopter which means it flaps it’s wings. It is the first to show controlled hovering. Look closely, there’s no rudder or tail. Mercury uses the two wings for both lift and control. Ornithopters themselves aren’t new, we’ve even covered them before. Usually they use the flapping wings for propulson and a tail to steer as they travel like an airplane. We would really love to see some detail shots of Mercury.

[via slashdot]

UAV medical couriers

We’re skeptical about most technology that’s designed to help remote villages (yes, even that one), but these new UAV medical couriers look like a great idea. The turn around time for medical sample analysis in remote South African villages can be excruciating. A team of engineers have attempted to adapt two different unmanned aerial vehicles for transport of medical samples. These could be either blood or saliva that needs testing. Test results would be relayed via phone as they are now, but the initial transport time would be much faster. The larger of the two UAVs can carry up to 500g; that’s enough to haul two units of blood for transfusion. The UAVs can be launched by hand and can survive winds up to 45kph. They fly their preprogrammed routes autonomously and don’t require any operator intervention. The team has flown two successful trials and is waiting for approval from the South African Civil Aviation Authority. For safety, they’re only transporting samples that can be sterilized before flight. New Scientist has a short video after the break. Continue reading “UAV medical couriers”

24C3 Build your own UAV


The 24th annual Chaos Communications Congress in Berlin is already off to a great start. The first talk we attended was [Antoine Drouin] and [Martin Müller] presenting Paparazzi – The Free Autopilot. Paparazzi is an open source hardware and software project for building autonomous unmanned aerial vehicles. The main hardware board has an ARM processor and GPS. It uses inertial and infrared sensors to determine orientation and altitude. The four infrared thermopiles measure the air temperature. The ground is warmer than the sky and if you compare the temperature in the direction of each wing tip your can tell what angle the airplane is at. It’s really that simple.

They did a pretty amazing live demo. Using the network connection they controlled a UAV flying in France and another in Germany. Both planes were streaming live video from belly mounted cameras. One relaying through a home DSL connection and the other through a UMTS cellphone. They were able to change way-points on the fly and issue flight pattern commands. There is a ground crew at each location with a security pilot that will switch the controls to manual if things get out of hand.