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Flapping NAV Performs Controlled Hovering Flight

timothy posted about 5 years ago | from the ornithopters-are-just-hovering-in-the-wings dept.

Robotics 128

An anonymous reader writes "AeroVironment, Inc. was awarded a Phase II contract extension in April from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to design and build a flying prototype for the Nano Air Vehicle (NAV) program. As part of this program AV has accomplished a technical milestone never before achieved: the controlled hovering flight of an air vehicle system with two flapping wings (video) that carries its own energy source and uses only the flapping wings for propulsion and control. Two wings for propulsion and control, nothing else."

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128 comments

First tweet (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28545995)

First tweet

Fapping Open Sores Fan Performs Poorly (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28546017)

fap fap fap

Re:Fapping Open Sores Fan Performs Poorly (0)

dotancohen (1015143) | about 5 years ago | (#28546505)

fap fap fap

That's what singing meat sounds like, right?

Ouch (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28546089)

0 comments and it's already slashdotted.

Re:Ouch (2)

CorporateSuit (1319461) | about 5 years ago | (#28546187)

Well, if everyone in slashdot was like me, we all wanted to see if it flaps like a vulture or like a hummingbird before posting...

Re:Ouch (3, Funny)

dotancohen (1015143) | about 5 years ago | (#28546597)

Well, if everyone in slashdot was like me, we all wanted to see if it flaps like a vulture or like a hummingbird before posting...

European vulture, or African?

Re:Ouch (1)

Red Flayer (890720) | about 5 years ago | (#28547433)

European vulture, or African?

Turkey vulture [google.com] -- so somewhat Asian and somewhat European.

But definitely unladen.

Perhaps this will clarify (1)

NotPeteMcCabe (833508) | about 5 years ago | (#28548605)

African or European vulture? You have to know these things when you're King.

Re:Perhaps this will clarify (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28550467)

Ni, just the difference between African swallow and a European swallow in a steep dive.

Re:Ouch (2, Funny)

dotancohen (1015143) | about 5 years ago | (#28546557)

0 comments and it's already slashdotted.

What the hell is this? Who are all the noobs who went off to RTFA?!? Has /. been trolled? [xkcd.com]

Re:Ouch (1)

Culture20 (968837) | about 5 years ago | (#28547207)

OMG I Love This Place Its
So Edgy Being Anonymous

Re:Ouch (1)

Endo13 (1000782) | about 5 years ago | (#28547769)

The link to TFA works fine. It's the link to the video that's slashdotted.

But what does all this mean?

Apparently... (3, Funny)

d474 (695126) | about 5 years ago | (#28546159)

...their website is being served off of the flapping bird robot, and said robot has crashed.

They can make flapping wing flying robots, but can't make a slashdot proof webserver, meh.

Re:Apparently... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28549311)

Alternate link to video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oHg5SJYRHA0 [youtube.com]

mirror (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28550845)

> ...their website is being served off of the fapping bird robot, and said robot has crashed.

Fortunately, youtube is crash proof:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cov7-XWUa18 [youtube.com]

Slashdotted!! (4, Informative)

anonymousNR (1254032) | about 5 years ago | (#28546167)

here's a link to another article which atleast has a computer generated image [firetrench.com]

Re:Slashdotted!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28546943)

Now that link is slashdotted!!

Nathan

Ornithopter (5, Informative)

fiannaFailMan (702447) | about 5 years ago | (#28546249)

Shouldn't this sort of thing be called an Ornithopter [wikipedia.org] ?

Re:Ornithopter (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28547717)

/agree
and once we know what it is called so we can google for it, what is it they are doing that requires a DARPA budget when we can buy a "$99 3-Channel Radio Controlled RC Flying Robotic Bird Cyberbird, Ready-To-Fly Ornithopter" online?

Re:Ornithopter (1)

CarpetShark (865376) | about 5 years ago | (#28547923)

US.mil: "Those terrorists will cower before our hornicopters.. orniopters.. morningchoppers. Goddamit. Private Geek, say that word at the end of my sentences from now on."

Nah, won't work.

Re:Ornithopter (1)

Dragonslicer (991472) | about 5 years ago | (#28551247)

Don't you mean Ornithopter [google.com] ?

Why the hell would you do that? (1)

iCantSpell (1162581) | about 5 years ago | (#28546251)

People can't drive cars so now we give the same people flying cars...

Re:Why the hell would you do that? (2, Insightful)

dotancohen (1015143) | about 5 years ago | (#28546473)

People can't drive cars so now we give the same people flying cars...

Flying cars? It's a nano flying vehicle, not a nanny flying vehicle.

Re:Why the hell would you do that? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28546847)

you meat not a ninny vehicle

Re:Why the hell would you do that? (1)

Red Flayer (890720) | about 5 years ago | (#28547501)

Flying cars? It's a nano flying vehicle

I thought it was a Nanu flying vehicle, which would be large and egg-shapped, and capable of interplanetary flight (at least one-way from the planet Ork). Last I heard there were issues with the landing sequence, though. Not sure if there's a RC, or if they're working on another public beta.

I could have misread, though.

Re:Why the hell would you do that? (1)

oodaloop (1229816) | about 5 years ago | (#28546579)

Apparently, iCantSpell can't read either. It's called a Nano Air Vehicle for a reason; because it's small.

Re:Why the hell would you do that? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28547129)

Perhaps GP though Tata was jumping into the Aerospace industry?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tata_Nano [wikipedia.org]

Re:Why the hell would you do that? (1)

Conspiracy_Of_Doves (236787) | about 5 years ago | (#28547579)

It isn't a car. It's a tiny robot. The whole thing weighs less than 10 grams.

Methinks... (1)

kipin (981566) | about 5 years ago | (#28546255)

They need to get one of those flapping NAV's to fan off their server and cool it down.

Youtube (5, Informative)

reg106 (256893) | about 5 years ago | (#28546325)

Here is an AeroVironment NAV video [youtube.com] on YouTube. Not sure if it's the same one, but it was uploaded today...

Re:Youtube (1)

Acer500 (846698) | about 5 years ago | (#28547259)

Thanks, it's probably the same one. And pretty cool, too.

Re:Youtube (1)

bughunter (10093) | about 5 years ago | (#28549613)

Yes, it's the same one. I viewed it on AV's site this morning before the slashdotting.

Laserbeak? (1)

oodaloop (1229816) | about 5 years ago | (#28546403)

Where's the Laserbeak tag? Or at least Lazerbeak, depending on which geek you ask.

When can I buy a ridable griffon/dragon? (3, Funny)

seanalltogether (1071602) | about 5 years ago | (#28546423)

Dear engineering community, that's all I've ever wanted from you in life, please make it happen.

Re:When can I buy a ridable griffon/dragon? (1)

oodaloop (1229816) | about 5 years ago | (#28546641)

Well, which is it; a griffon or a dragon? There is a HUGE difference between them. Maybe you should read your Monstrous Compendium a little closer.

Re:When can I buy a ridable griffon/dragon? (1)

FlyingBishop (1293238) | about 5 years ago | (#28546831)

Well, yes, but anyone capable of engineering the one could likely engineer the other.

Or maybe the GP meant griffon/dragon hybrid, which would be even more badass, you must admit.

Re:When can I buy a ridable griffon/dragon? (1)

azgard (461476) | about 5 years ago | (#28548449)

Actually, dragons are much more difficult from an engineering standpoint. They are larger, live longer, have armored skin and usually a breath weapon.

Re:When can I buy a ridable griffon/dragon? (1)

FlyingBishop (1293238) | about 5 years ago | (#28549925)

Well, obviously for the most badass model. But a Komodo with wings capable of lifting a human would be just as much a dragon as a full-fledged Smaug. And a flying Komodo would be just the same engineering challenge as a griffon - putting wings on an existing ferocious animal and taming it.

Re:When can I buy a ridable griffon/dragon? (1)

Nefarious Wheel (628136) | about 5 years ago | (#28551079)

I'm still trying to fit a Hula Doll to my [Flying Machine].

Re:When can I buy a ridable griffon/dragon? (3, Funny)

CorporateSuit (1319461) | about 5 years ago | (#28546691)

Sponsor a $20 Billion, tax-exempt contract for ridable, mechanical dragons/griffons that live entirely off large livestock and I'm sure you'll have them fleet-ready in 15 years (as long as PETA doesn't catch wind of it).

Re:When can I buy a ridable griffon/dragon? (1)

camperdave (969942) | about 5 years ago | (#28547859)

If you want an engineered dragon, you're on the wrong planet [wikipedia.org] .

Re:When can I buy a ridable griffon/dragon? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28549505)

I read the subject as "When can I buy a ridable girlfriend".

And honestly, I think that's a better question for the engineers.

fago8z (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28546457)

of playinNg your = 36400 FreeBSD

Clocks (3, Funny)

the_Bionic_lemming (446569) | about 5 years ago | (#28546521)

This just in, Prototype lost to clock with bacteria digester system.

PETA responded with applause.

Re:Clocks (1)

thewils (463314) | about 5 years ago | (#28547393)

Prototype lost to clock with bacteria digester system

Which then exploded after ingesting the high-density Lithium batteries...

I thought . . . (3, Funny)

arizwebfoot (1228544) | about 5 years ago | (#28546577)

it was pretty cool.

There will be hummingbird looking things flying in and out of your nearest neighborhood crime syndicate office monitoring their activities.

Who needs wiretapping now?

Oh, and I think hummingbirds have prior art.

BzZzZzz (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28546609)

BzZzZzzzZZzZz...

Never before achieved? (1, Interesting)

fahrbot-bot (874524) | about 5 years ago | (#28546653)

As part of this program AV has accomplished a technical milestone never before achieved: the controlled hovering flight of an air vehicle system with two flapping wings that carries its own energy source and uses only the flapping wings for propulsion and control.

By man or something man-made perhaps. Now if you'll excuse me, my Hummingbird [wikipedia.org] is bored...

wind gusts (1)

Red Flayer (890720) | about 5 years ago | (#28546665)

FTA, emphasis mine:

"The goals of the NAV program -- namely to develop an approximately 10 gram aircraft that can hover for extended periods, can fly at forward speeds up to 10 meters per second, can withstand 2.5 meter per second wind gusts, can operate inside buildings, and have up to a kilometer command and control range -- will stretch our understanding of flight at these small sizes and require novel technology development." 2.5 m/s wind gust == ~5.6 mph wind gust. For outdoor use, that seems like a pretty low threshold -- so the requirement that it "can operate inside buildings" seems to be the more of the primary use.

That's a tall order, though, for something under 10 grams. I wonder if it's necessary to have an active system to respond to wind gusts and auto-stabilize the flight, or if it's be possible via aerodynamics alone.

Re:wind gusts (argh... formatting) (1)

Red Flayer (890720) | about 5 years ago | (#28546707)

Should have read:

FTA, emphasis mine:

"The goals of the NAV program -- namely to develop an approximately 10 gram aircraft that can hover for extended periods, can fly at forward speeds up to 10 meters per second, can withstand 2.5 meter per second wind gusts, can operate inside buildings, and have up to a kilometer command and control range -- will stretch our understanding of flight at these small sizes and require novel technology development." 2.5 m/s wind gust == ~5.6 mph wind gust. For outdoor use, that seems like a pretty low threshold -- so the requirement that it "can operate inside buildings" seems to be the more of the primary use.

That's a tall order, though, for something under 10 grams. I wonder if it's necessary to have an active system to respond to wind gusts and auto-stabilize the flight, or if it's be possible via aerodynamics alone.

Re:wind gusts (argh... formatting) (2, Interesting)

oodaloop (1229816) | about 5 years ago | (#28546771)

The part that got me was 10 meters per second. That seems pretty damn fast to me for something that small that beats its wings.

Re:wind gusts (argh... formatting) (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | about 5 years ago | (#28547243)

That's about 22 miles per hour, or a little slower than a hummingbird. Which is indeed pretty impressive.

Re:wind gusts (argh... formatting) (1)

Red Flayer (890720) | about 5 years ago | (#28547373)

There are commercial helicopter-design UAVs weighing 15g that achieve that... about the size of a pack of cigarettes.

So this would be competitive with that in terms of speed.

Given that there are natural flapping-wing "designs" that achieve 25 M/s at a weight of 2.5 g (some hummingbirds), there's no reason why we shouldn't set a goal of 10 M/s at 10 g.

Re:wind gusts (argh... formatting)(2x argh...typo) (1)

Red Flayer (890720) | about 5 years ago | (#28547523)

What's up with my stupid typos today?

That should be 15 M/s at a weight of 2.5 g.

Re:wind gusts (argh... formatting)(2x argh...typo) (2, Interesting)

OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) | about 5 years ago | (#28550291)

Still it's quite impressive what they have today. "Withstand 2.5 m/s wind gusts" does not mean their ornithopter explodes if the wind exceeds that. It just means that above 2.5 m/s it will have to "go with the flow", and thus will lose a part of it's mobility. It can still control it's speed in 3 other directions though.

I have the impression that birds regularly hit this limit. They try to go against the wind, and it proves too much for them. They simply land and try again 5 seconds later, which usually succeeds.

So the 2.5 m/s wind limit could be quite acceptable, even for outdoor flight. Assuming it can land like a bird (ie. everywhere).

I do see one big problem these devices will have to contend with : Cats [icanhascheezburger.com] (perhaps not the lolcat variant, the regular one). So if you want to secure your house from these spying devices ... buy a cat. Birds, after 3 million years of evolution still haven't quite figured out how to protect themselves against cats, so it seems unlikely these guys will find it in the next month.

Re:wind gusts (argh... formatting) (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28551533)

Last I heard, dragonflies can dart up to 70MPH. And they weigh prettly close to nothing. Not sure how fast they can go sustained though.

Re:wind gusts (argh... formatting) (2, Insightful)

maxume (22995) | about 5 years ago | (#28547573)

It depends on what withstand means. I've watched lots of dragonflies (and other insects) fly around in stronger winds than that, gusts too. If they mean stay in the air and mostly on course, it should at least be possible, if they mean stay in one place, probably not.

Re:wind gusts (argh... formatting) (1)

nextekcarl (1402899) | about 5 years ago | (#28547989)

Actually compared to the small helicopters that I've tried, being able to fly in 5 mph wind would be quite nice. These things get seriously screwed up with a very slight breeze (I'm guessing well under 5 mph, though I'm not certain). The air coming out of my heater vent near the ceiling nearly crashes it from across the room, where I can't even feel the air anymore.

Advantages vs. traditional rotating wing? (4, Interesting)

dfay (75405) | about 5 years ago | (#28546671)

To any familiar with this company or this line of research in general:

What are the advantages of the ornithopter design over a traditional helicopter design? Why is DARPA interested?

Yes, I did read the article... and I understand what DARPA is interested in getting out of a small UAV that can hover. What I don't understand is why a normal helicopter design couldn't suit all of these needs better and cheaper.

Regardless of the answer, it's a very cool project. Obviously very worthwhile just from the point-of-view of the scientific and engineering advances.

Re:Advantages vs. traditional rotating wing? (0)

Red Flayer (890720) | about 5 years ago | (#28546809)

Yes, I did read the article... and I understand what DARPA is interested in getting out of a small UAV that can hover. What I don't understand is why a normal helicopter design couldn't suit all of these needs better and cheaper.

Because a helicopter design is not as easily mistaken for a flying insect?

Because helicopter designs are fundamentally flawed at a small scale due to the physics of vortexes? And that eventually they will want the design to be even smaller?

And , most importnntly, because the secret aliens who have infiltrated the ranks of our future enemies find it easier to detect abnormal air flow from a helicopter design than from a flapping wing design.

Re:Advantages vs. traditional rotating wing? (3, Interesting)

Dynedain (141758) | about 5 years ago | (#28546845)

Helicopters are LOUD

Winged vehicles can glide (among other things) making them far more stealthy in small forms.

Re:Advantages vs. traditional rotating wing? (2, Insightful)

socceroos (1374367) | about 5 years ago | (#28551377)

Yeah, with that wing span it has more chance of winning the lottery than gliding...

Re:Advantages vs. traditional rotating wing? (0)

fahrbot-bot (874524) | about 5 years ago | (#28546865)

What I don't understand is why a normal helicopter design couldn't suit all of these needs better and cheaper.

I imagine it has to do with potential mechanical problems in feathering or hinging the blades as the scale gets really small. A speck of sand could muck things up quite nicely.

Re:Advantages vs. traditional rotating wing? (1)

s7726 (742427) | about 5 years ago | (#28546873)

Nature has a tendency to self optimize over time, i think that walking fish guy might have invented the idea. I believe winged flight is more efficient than what we have been able to achieve prior to this point. I could be wrong.

Re:Advantages vs. traditional rotating wing? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28546985)

What I don't understand is why a normal helicopter design couldn't suit all of these needs better and cheaper.

I'm just going to quote the Ornithopter article on wikipedia:

Unlike airplanes and helicopters, the driving airfoils of the ornithopter have a flapping or oscillating motion, instead of rotary. As with helicopters, the wings usually have a combined function of providing both lift and thrust. Theoretically, the flapping wing can be set to zero angle of attack on the upstroke, so it passes easily through the air. Since typically the flapping airfoils produce both lift and thrust, drag-inducing structures are minimized. These two advantages potentially allow a high degree of efficiency.

Sounds logical; I've seen some very large dragonflys; that are both faster, more agile, and probably more efficient than similarily sized remote control helicopters. But that is pretty apples:oranges; I guess the better comparison would be a remote controlled dragonfly or the more ideal, but far less attainable, comparison: a biological helicopter.

 
 

Hmm... yes, a biological helicopter indeed. To the laboratory, Igor!

Re:Advantages vs. traditional rotating wing? (1)

element-o.p. (939033) | about 5 years ago | (#28547935)

...or the more ideal, but far less attainable, comparison: a biological helicopter

I'm not one to throw out the word "impossible" very quickly, since people who have used that word have been proven wrong so many times in the past. However, I read an argument back in...Jr. High?...that claimed that a truly rotational structure on a biological organism was at the very least highly improbable. There aren't biological structures that can rotate infinitely, because biological mechanisms require plumbing (blood, etc.) and muscle attach points on both halves of the rotating structure.

Think of it this way: how do you pump nutrients and return wastes from the rotor shaft and the blades? If you have the shaft sitting in a pool of mixed nutrients and wastes, you have an extremely inefficient circulatory system (due to the mixing), which I think wouldn't work well with the power requirements of a flying organism. Then, how do you attach muscles to the rotor shaft to spin the blades without having muscles that are infinitely long? Even owls' heads only rotate a finite distance -- they can't rotate like the girl's head in "The Exorcist"

About the only way I can see to have a biological helicopter would be to have a pair of symbiotes -- one being the body of the "helicopter" and the other being the rotor shaft and rotor blades. The two organisms nest together so the rotor organism spins on top of the body organism, and the body organism continuously grabs, spins and releases the shaft of the rotor organism.

Re:Advantages vs. traditional rotating wing? (2, Insightful)

evilviper (135110) | about 5 years ago | (#28548539)

There aren't biological structures that can rotate infinitely, because biological mechanisms require plumbing (blood, etc.) and muscle attach points on both halves of the rotating structure.

You need to take a good long look at your own shoulders...

No, not really a free-rotating structure, but more than close enough to be re-purposed into driving a rotor or propeller.

Re:Advantages vs. traditional rotating wing? (1)

element-o.p. (939033) | about 5 years ago | (#28550145)

Did you take a look at how the shoulder works? Attach an airfoil to your arm notice that at some point during the "rotation" the rotor blade will shift from aligned with the relative wind to perpendicular to the relative wind. Not terribly efficient for generating lift...certainly not "close enough to be repurposed."

Re:Advantages vs. traditional rotating wing? (2, Insightful)

UncleTogie (1004853) | about 5 years ago | (#28548863)

I'm not one to throw out the word "impossible" very quickly, since people who have used that word have been proven wrong so many times in the past. However, I read an argument back in...Jr. High?...that claimed that a truly rotational structure on a biological organism was at the very least highly improbable. There aren't biological structures that can rotate infinitely, because biological mechanisms require plumbing (blood, etc.) and muscle attach points on both halves of the rotating structure.

How far down the size scale are you looking?

Take a peek at this [asm.org] and see if it's what you're thinking of.

Re:Advantages vs. traditional rotating wing? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28549471)

Bacteria have tiny electric motors to drive their flagella

That just blew my mind a little bit.

Re:Advantages vs. traditional rotating wing? (1)

element-o.p. (939033) | about 5 years ago | (#28550521)

Nope.

See the explanation I gave to EvilViper [slashdot.org] for why not. Or, do like I did and simulate a flagellum by attaching a post-it note to a cat-5 cable. Notice what happens to the airflow across the rotor blade as the cat-5 cable "rotates" in your hand. It has to be a truly spinning structure to work, and the flagellum isn't close enough.

Re:Advantages vs. traditional rotating wing? (1)

ckhorne (940312) | about 5 years ago | (#28549931)

Take a look at the wikipedia article on flagellum, used by bacteria and sperm, among others, for locomotion: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flagellum [wikipedia.org]

"The bacterial flagellum is driven by a rotary engine made up of protein (Mot complex), located at the flagellum's anchor point on the inner cell membrane. The engine is powered by proton motive force, i.e., by the flow of protons (hydrogen ions) across the bacterial cell membrane due to a concentration gradient set up by the cell's metabolism (in Vibrio species there are two kinds of flagella, lateral and polar, and some are driven by a sodium ion pump rather than a proton pump[17]). The rotor transports protons across the membrane, and is turned in the process. The rotor alone can operate at 6,000 to 17,000 rpm, but with the flagellar filament attached usually only reaches 200 to 1000 rpm."

While still a stretch from a helicopter, the ability to rotate does exist in the biological world, and at speeds that would be required. The design is even similar to current motor designs.

Re:Advantages vs. traditional rotating wing? (1)

element-o.p. (939033) | about 5 years ago | (#28550589)

You are the third person to suggest this, but it won't work for an airfoil. I've already explained why in replies to my original post; jump up to parent and follow the threads for the full explanation, but for the short version, try it using an ethernet cable, power cord, iPhone cable, etc. to simulate the flagellum and with a post-it note to simulate the rotor blade and see what happens to the airflow across the "rotor" at various points in the "rotation."

Re:Advantages vs. traditional rotating wing? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28551077)

You are the third person to suggest this, but it won't work for an airfoil.

And that is the third time you failed to notice that many bacterial flagella are powered by true rotational motors. Their motion cannot be simulated by an ethernet cable unless it is unplugged and rotated rather than swung around.

Re:Advantages vs. traditional rotating wing? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28547299)

I think one of the downsides to a helictoper is that you have to counteract the rotational force of the rotors; an Ornithopter might be less complicated to control/less prone to catastrophic failure if something happens to the tail rotor or its control linkages. (Plus less weight by not having those components?)

Re:Advantages vs. traditional rotating wing? (1)

element-o.p. (939033) | about 5 years ago | (#28548157)

Countering the rotational force of the rotors isn't that difficult. I used to have a free-flight model helicopter which used the rotational force of the rotors to provide additional lift. A standard model airplane propeller was attached to the crankshaft of the engine as in a normal model airplane. The base of the engine was mounted to a set of larger propeller blades, like you would typically find on a helicopter. As the engine rotated the model airplane propeller, the reaction of that force rotated the second, larger set blades in the opposite direction. The end result was a counter-rotating propeller design which allowed almost all of the energy from the engine to provide lift for the helicopter (minus some loss due to heat and friction). While this might be a little difficult to implement in a fully-functional helicopter powered by an internal combustion engine (how do you plumb the fuel supply lines?), it would probably be trivial to implement in a small electric engine-powered design.

Re:Advantages vs. traditional rotating wing? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28548457)

There are some energy technologies that have a fast recharge/discharge cycle. Most batteries are based on a continuous discharge cycle and are optimized to deliver relatively low power for a relatively long time. There are some newer technologies that are not battery based (at least not directly) that allows a fast discharge and a "rest" period (a second or so) where the capacitor can recharge. This recharge can be effected through chemical/biological processes that would normally be too slow to use as a traditional battery.. However, couple this high discharge rate with a slow but very long lasting power source (amazing how much energy is in a teaspoon of sugar) and then add a propulsion technology that's compatible with those power sources (e.g., a "flapping wing") and you can create a bird that stays aloft for hours at a time. Add a low-wattage transmitter (backed by a traditional battery) and you have an effective surveillance system.

But I'm just saying...

Wow.. Did you see all those little birds flying around recently?

Your Federal Tax Dollars At Work (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28546693)

for war instead of health care.

Yours In Socialism,
Kilgore Trout

I'm confused (1, Funny)

AdamWeeden (678591) | about 5 years ago | (#28546739)

What does this have to do with Norton Anti-Virus?

Re:I'm confused (1)

The name is Dave. Ja (845139) | about 5 years ago | (#28547543)

... and "Flapping" is pretty serious. Guy must really hate it.

Re:I'm confused (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28548719)

Well obviously.... it's just another platform that Norton fails to detect a virus on.

Real original (1)

Locke2005 (849178) | about 5 years ago | (#28546775)

Pity nobody has thought of this before [gizmag.com]

Re:Real original (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28547155)

No kidding this is stupid considering they could have just taken the UTIAS Ornithopter No.1, a manned ornithopter with a 41ft foot wingspan that can fly for 14 seconds (with the assistance of a turbine engine) and shrunk it down to apply it to something with a half a foot wingspan, unmanned, can hover and can't use any assistance besides the flapping. I hate it when people pretend like they are doing ground breaking research into something new, when someone else has already done something bigger, with different constraints, goals and a vague similarity.

Re:Real original (1)

amicusNYCL (1538833) | about 5 years ago | (#28548121)

It should be readily apparent that there's a massive difference between a manned aircraft and a 10g robot. It's not about "thinking of it before", DARPA isn't sponsoring a competition to see who can think of an ornithopter first. It's about execution.

Re:Real original (1)

Locke2005 (849178) | about 5 years ago | (#28550727)

Toys are a lot easier to build than manned aircraft. It is widely believed that Galileo built working toy ornithopters that could fly around the room 500 years ago (granted, they probably could not hover).

Re:Real original (1)

amicusNYCL (1538833) | about 5 years ago | (#28551785)

Either you're completely missing the point or you're just trolling. I doubt that Galileo's "toy" was capable of controlled flight, let alone hovering. This isn't about building a toy that you sit on a charger for 15 minutes so that you can fly it around for 5. This is about building a robot that can travel at 10m/s and be controlled from a range of 1km.

The goals of the NAV program -- namely to develop an approximately 10 gram aircraft that can hover for extended periods, can fly at forward speeds up to 10 meters per second, can withstand 2.5 meter per second wind gusts, can operate inside buildings, and have up to a kilometer command and control range -- will stretch our understanding of flight at these small sizes and require novel technology development.

Does that sound like something that Galileo built 500 years ago? Does that sound like a manned aircraft? Note that the requirements don't say anything about the method of propulsion or control.

The NAV program was initiated by DARPA to develop a new class of air vehicles capable of indoor and outdoor operation. Employing biological mimicry at an extremely small scale this unconventional aircraft is designed to provide new military reconnaissance capabilities in urban environments.

Does that sound like any "toy" that you've seen available?

"From the first day of the Phase I effort, we knew that our biggest challenge would be to develop a viable propulsion system, followed by the extreme challenge of creating a control system for such complex operation at such a small scale," said Matt Keennon, AV's project manager and principal investigator on the NAV project. "Both systems were extremely difficult to conceive and required an intense combination of creative, scientific, and artistic problem-solving skills from several key team members."

If you think you can build a better toy than these guys, what's stopping you? They just got awarded $2.1 million by DARPA to continue R&D. If you think the goals of this program are 1) to think of an ornithopter and 2) to build a toy, go right ahead.

So now all they need is flying brooms (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28546989)

and DARPA can play Quidditch.

For those with tinfoil hats... when does it become (1)

davidsyes (765062) | about 5 years ago | (#28547159)

Illegal to shoot birds and insects on sight? We have in some cities ordinances stating "DON'T FEED THE BIRDS/PIGEONS" due to trying to control vermin and bird droppings in public venues.

But, suppose building owners or overreacting individuals decide to "malathion" a bird they think is a spy vehicle?

Well, one way to deal with these things is to put sticky glue traps (mean to cat rodents) all over the place. Or, periodically "mist" the air with soap or sticky/bubbly shit to down them. Or, where there may be perches, set up IR lasing beams to jam them (-- if you can figure out the ops/coms freqs) or IR lasing or kill them when they land or get too close. Surely, they'll be landed for energy conservation reasons.

Or, set up mirrors in the buildings so they crash into them or get stuck and the operators cannot figure the way out. When they get too close to vortavacs, suck their asses into a disposal chute.

Diabolical, or what?

Yet another way to deal with them (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28550905)

Take up falconry.

Two wings only? (1)

sabt-pestnu (967671) | about 5 years ago | (#28547199)

> Two wings for propulsion and control, nothing else.
(emphasis mine)

Even hummingbirds have tails. A bee might be a better example, but they have four wings, as do butterflies.

Re:Two wings only? (1)

HiThere (15173) | about 5 years ago | (#28551505)

While bees and wasps do, indeed, have four wings, two pair are joined rather inseparably. For all significant purposes that's a single pair of wings with a dual control joint at the body.

Flies, however, do only have a single pair of wings. But the remnants of the other pair have become ... I think they call them halters ... which vibrate while the fly's flying to act as tiny gyroscopes. (I've never investigated the physics, which sounds rather improbable, but that's what I was told.)

This is probably more on the bee or wasp model, as I suspect that they've got a bunch of leverage on just how the wing is oriented.

Then there are grasshoppers. I don't know precisely how they fly, but as I understand it one of their pairs of wings has been turned into a sheath for their other wings, so when flying they are only using one pair of wings, but they have the other pair ridgidly extended. OTOH, grasshoppers always seem reluctant to fly, so that might not be such a good model anyway.

Crowbar (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28547343)

Does anyone else have the nagging urge to whack that thing across the room with a crowbar?

Re:Crowbar (1)

KylePflug (898555) | about 5 years ago | (#28547871)

That's what I was thinking the entire time.

WowWee's Bat and Dragon also hover on wings. (4, Interesting)

Animats (122034) | about 5 years ago | (#28547363)

This is almost as good as WowWee's Bat and Dragon [wowwee.com] . They're little, they fly with moving wings, and they can hover. $39.99. Available wherever toys are sold [amazon.com] . That's the entry-level product; the next step up, the Green Dragonfly [wowwee.com] , is an indoor/outdoor R/C ornithopter capable of hovering.

Those models doesn't have any onboard intelligence, but some of the other WowWee flying machines have collision avoidance. WowWee has a whole line of flying and robotic toys, and they deliver impressive technology at prices well under $100. Maybe DARPA should outsource.

Re:WowWee's Bat and Dragon also hover on wings. (2, Informative)

bughunter (10093) | about 5 years ago | (#28549473)

"Almost as good?" Hardly. The WowWee toys fly with moving wings, yes, but they're more glider than ornithopter, and require a rudder. The Aerovironment NAV is a true ornithopter, the flapping movement of its wings provides all lift and thrust and 3-axis control. But because this is slashdot, you're excused for opining out of ignorance, even when it could be cured by RTFA.

Re:WowWee's Bat and Dragon also hover on wings. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28550471)

Maybe DARPA should outsource.

DARPA does outsource. WowWee should have bid.

Re:WowWee's Bat and Dragon also hover on wings. (1)

serutan (259622) | about 5 years ago | (#28551707)

Wow! Thanks for posting that. I had no idea this type of toy was available, and so cheap. You solved an upcoming birthday dilemma for me!

LD (1)

fulldecent (598482) | about 5 years ago | (#28547427)

>> Flapping NAV Performs Controlled Hovering Flight

da Vinci... is that you?

Star Wars (1)

Cyner (267154) | about 5 years ago | (#28548515)

Perhaps developments like this were the reason the Star Wars Program [slashdot.org] was miniaturized. Protecting us from "mosquitos" sure sounds like a good cover story.
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