Imagine walking outside on a lovely spring day and you hear a buzzing sound; it's a little like the vibrating hum of wings, but with an oddly robotic pitch. Then you look up.
Someday in the future, you might just find yourself walking right under a drone that is about to perch on a powerline to recharge.
A Ph.D. candidate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has developed a prototype that is small and agile enough to recharge itself on the power lines that crisscross most cities.
The size and weight of the power systems puts a damper on most UAV operations; these aerial systems can only operate for a short time — sometimes mere minutes — before having to land to get a power boost.
But Joseph Moore, an MIT student, crafted a small drone that uses magnetic field sensing to perch perfectly atop the power lines and recharge itself.
Magnetic field sensing has an advantage over camera sensing, for example, since power lines already provide a magnetic beacon that stands out from its surrounding environment.
"Small and micro UAVs have enabled a number of new mission capabilities, including navigating in and around buildings and performing perch-and-stare surveillance," Moore said. "However, one of the primary limitations of these small vehicles is endurance, simply because they cannot carry sufficient power for long missions."
Moore's technology may see actually reach the market before a similar military project sees the light of day, even though it has been under development for at least five years. The Air Force has been developing similar plans for micro aerial vehicles since 2009, and admit in their pitch video that the small, swarming bots could use a variety of recharging methods, such as solar or power lines.
The project is outlined by the Air Vehicles Directorate, a research arm of the Air Force, in their computer-animated video outlining the the future envisioned capabilities of Micro Air Vehicles, or MAVs.
According to the Daily Mail, the project was announced last year, and "promises to revolutionize war by down-sizing the combatants." The video narrator does predict, "MAVs will become a vital element in the ever-changing war-fighting environment and will help ensure success on the battlefield of the future," but TheBlaze confirmed with the Air Force Research Institute that the swarming drones may be sacrificed to a tightening budget.
"[The requirements division] recently concluded a military utility study to assess the future AF needs for micro aerial vehicles/small unmanned aerial systems," a spokesperson told The Blaze in an email. "We are currently reviewing the results of this study to determine what future investments are warranted."
But the video speaks volumes about where the military vision exists for this type of technology, shown here as a "precision engagement" tool used to take out enemy snipers.
Check out the full Air Force pitch video below.
(H/T: Digital Journal)
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