Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Aerial Surveillance Technology

Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Aerial Surveillance Technology

Article excerpt

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Maple tree seeds (or samara fruit) and the spiraling pattern in which they glide to the ground have delighted children for ages and perplexed engineers for decades. Now aerospace engineering graduate students at the University of Maryland's Clark School of Engineering have learned how to apply the seeds' unique design to devices that can hover and perform surveillance in defense and emergency situations.

In the 1950s, researchers first tried to create an unmanned aerial vehicle that could mimic a maple seed's spiraling fall. Ever since, their attempts have been foiled by instability, resulting in a lack of control over the tiny--less than 1 m--vehicles, which were easily knocked off course by wind. As recently as June 2009, this was considered an open challenge for engineers.

The Clark School students have solved the steering problem and provided a solution that allows the device to take off from the ground and hover, and perform controlled flight after its initial fall to the ground after being deployed from an aircraft. The device can also begin to hover during its initial descent, or after being launched by hand.

The students studied maple seeds and developed a new design incorporating the natural flight of the tiny flyers. …

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