By Kalwinder Kaur
By investigating birds’ perceptual and maneuvering capabilities, the Office of Naval Research (ONR) intends to gain better control over small unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) autonomy. This effort will be published in the August issue of Popular Science.
ONR-Funded Research Takes Flight in Popular Science Article
Funded by ONR, the five-year Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative (MURI) program will explore the behavioral as well as control practice of birds and flying creatures during their high-speed flight in complex scenarios like urban settings and forests. Researchers are making efforts to study the specific flight path of birds and the velocity of flight safe enough for launching current engineered air systems.
The vision of this program is to design and demonstrate the safe navigation of small aircraft in complex environments, with 5 m/sec speed. The theoretical results can be implemented for operating larger UAVs for intricate tasks.
In order to demonstrate flight in a real forest, an artificial forest was created within the lab, and by using birds and a MIT-built UAV equipped with motion-capture technology-based small digital video cameras, the flight performance of UAVs in forest was analyzed.
Instead of mimicking the birds, the focus of the project is to learn the seamless movement of birds based on dynamic obstacle avoidance methods. Using this analysis, a novel system capable of making real-time decisions with respect to its environment can be developed. The program also showed the types of flight strategies practiced by birds in these environments.
Small UAVs ensure warfighters with increased versatility, ease of use and portability. The aim of the program is to achieve this type of light with compact and affordable digital video cameras as the key sensors.
MURI partnered with other universities to analyze similar issues with other forest creatures such as birds, large insects like hawk moths, and bats.