Shape-shifting robot plane to make maritime rescue safer than before

Washington, Aug 27 (AN): In what could make maritime rescue operations safer than they used to be, researchers have developed a shape-shifting robot plane that could ensure a smooth flight for extended rescue and surveillance missions, while reducing risks to material and crews.

The EUREKA E! 3931 ASARP project has developed a small and cheap-to-build unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) intended to cut the cost of maritime search-and-rescue missions and reduce risks to material and human lives.

The seaplane uses shape-changing technology to improve flight stability, enabling the plane to fly in severe weather conditions.

The resulting craft has an endurance of 4.5 hours with a payload of up to 40 kg. It is equipped with state-of-the-art avionics and onboard cameras.

And it is linked wirelessly to the command centre from where the pilot can control the UAV.

A prototype is currently undergoing final trials in Cyprus and the design is already attracting interest from governmental and civil rescue and surveillance organisations.

Maritime search and rescue is often hampered by severe weather, posing a major risk to helicopters or fixed-wing aircraft and their crews. The cost in material and human life can prove high.

ASARP set out to design a UAV to undertake such rescue missions more effectively.

"The main problem is that UAVs are small, light and affected by extreme weather," explained project coordinator Dr Michael Amprikidis of engineering consultancy GGD. ASARP tackled this by using reactive shape-changing control surfaces.

The shape-changing elements of the plane- aeroservoelastic trim tabs, can be vibrated in counterphase to wind gusts to reduce loads by as much 25 percent, allowing the UAV to fly in severe weather.

On-board sensors monitor stability and provide constant feedback to the ailerons.

"Aeroservoelastic technology makes it possible to use wind speed and the structural mechanics of the system to our advantage," said Amprikidis. (ANI)

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