MIT engineers have created a robotic glider that can ride the wind like an albatross and maneuver the waves like a sailboat, according to MIT News.
The robot is designed to stay in the air if there are high winds, but when the wind is calm, the robot can dip into the water.
The robotic system uses both nautical and biological designs, and can go a given distance using one-third as much wind that an albatross does. Additionally, it can travel 10 times faster than a sailboat. It only weighs six pounds, and researchers hope the lean and compact physique of the robot can help teams survey large sections of the ocean.
After thorough research on the albatross, the researchers found that both the albatross and sailboat transfer their momentum to maintain speed. For the sailboat, though, the transfer occurs between layers of the air and water. Meanwhile, the albatross wings provide natural lift. The researchers hoped to take the best from both worlds for their robotic design.
The team’s design draft resembled an autonomous glider with a 3-meter wingspan, a triangular sail and slim, wing-like keel. The team built their prototype using a glider airframe, with additions such as GPS, inertial measurement sensors, auto-pilot instrumentation and ultrasound.
“Imagine you could fly like an albatross when it’s really windy, and then when there’s not enough wind, the keel allows you to sail like a sailboat,” said Gabriel Bousquet, a former postdoc in MIT’s Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and head designer of the robot. “This dramatically expands the kinds of regions where you can go.”
Filed Under: Motion control • motor controls, Robotics • robotic grippers • end effectors