[video] What Do You Get When You Cross an Airplane With a Submarine?

jueves, 15 de febrero de 2018

Time-lapse image of the EagleRay transitioning from underwater to the air. Image credit: Matthew Bryant. Click to enlarge.
Bryant, Weisler and Stewart (from left to right), with a prototype of the EagleRay. 

North Carolina State University's press release


Researchers from North Carolina State University have developed the first unmanned, fixed-wing aircraft that is capable of traveling both through the air and under the water – transitioning repeatedly between sky and sea. The EagleRay XAV, which was developed with funding and assistance from Teledyne Scientific, holds promise for use in applications such as tracking and observing wildlife.

“Maintaining aerial surveillance can use a lot of energy,” says Warren Weisler, a Ph.D. student at NC State who worked on the EagleRay project. “The EagleRay can conserve energy by spending some of its time in the water.

“For example, the EagleRay could track a fast-moving pod of dolphins from the air, then spend time loitering in the water if the dolphins stop to take advantage of a good feeding spot. The EagleRay could then resume flight when the dolphins begin moving again.”

“The EagleRay could also rapidly move underwater sensors from location to location,” says William Stewart, another NC State Ph.D. student who worked on the project. “It could even perform underwater monitoring that most unmanned aerial vehicles can’t.

“For example, sonar only works underwater. If you’re seeking a sonar target, the EagleRay could fly to a site, submerge to take sonar readings, and then resume flight to take readings elsewhere. Historically, an aircraft would have to drop sonobuoys to collect sonar data.”

The project started when a team of four NC State faculty, led by Matthew Bryant, an assistant professor in NC State’s Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, won a research contract from Teledyne in 2014. Professors Kara Peters, Ashok Gopalarathnam, and Larry Silverberg served as co-principle investigators on the project. By spring of 2016, Bryant’s team had developed a fully functional prototype – and they published a paper on the work in 2017. Video of the EagleRay in action can be seen at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Aw01NnG9hu0.

“A key point regarding the EagleRay design is that it is scalable – you can make larger or smaller models as needed,” Stewart says. “It really depends on the size of the desired payload, how long you’d need it to operate, and so on.”

The current model of EagleRay has a wingspan of 59 inches and is 55 inches long, weighing in at 12.6 pounds. It has a dual-use propeller, powered by an electric motor, that propels it through both air and water.

“We’re currently developing a custom controller for the EagleRay,” Weisler says. “Existing controllers aren’t designed for a vehicle that transitions from air to sea and back again – they’re designed to be one or the other, with no transition stage.”

The researchers are also refining a dynamic model of the EagleRay, for use in simulations that can be used for training purposes, to predict performance under various conditions and to refine the vehicle design.

“This project has been extremely challenging and rewarding,” Weisler says.

“Seeing it fly during field trials was exhilarating,” says Stewart.

Testing and Characterization of a Fixed Wing Cross-Domain Unmanned Vehicle Operating in Aerial and Underwater Environments
The paper, “Testing and Characterization of a Fixed Wing Cross-Domain Unmanned Vehicle Operating in Aerial and Underwater Environments,” is published in the IEEE Journal of Oceanic Engineering. Weisler is lead author of the paper. Co-authors include Stewart, Bryant, Peters, Gopalarathnam and Mark Anderson of Teledyne.

This paper presents test results and performance characterization of the first fixed-wing unmanned vehicle capable of full cross-domain operation in both the aerial and underwater environments with repeated transition and low-energy loitering capabilities. This vehicle concept combines the speed and range of an aircraft with the persistence, diving capabilities, and stealth of a submersible. The paper describes the proof-of-concept vehicle including its concept of operations, the approaches employed to achieve the required functions, and the main components and subsystems. Key subsystems include a passively flooding and draining wing, a single motor and propeller combination for propulsion in both domains, and aerodynamic–hydrodynamic control surfaces. Experiments to quantify the vehicle performance, control responses, and energy consumption in underwater, surface, and flight operation are presented and analyzed. Results of several full-cycle tests are presented to characterize and illustrate each stage of operation including surface locomotion, underwater locomotion, water egress, flight, and water ingress. In total, the proof-of-concept vehicle demonstrated 12 full-cycle cross-domain missions including both manually controlled and autonomous operation.

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