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Flapping NAV Performs Controlled Hovering Flight 128

Posted by timothy
from the ornithopters-are-just-hovering-in-the-wings dept.
An anonymous reader writes "AeroVironment, Inc. was awarded a Phase II contract extension in April from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to design and build a flying prototype for the Nano Air Vehicle (NAV) program. As part of this program AV has accomplished a technical milestone never before achieved: the controlled hovering flight of an air vehicle system with two flapping wings (video) that carries its own energy source and uses only the flapping wings for propulsion and control. Two wings for propulsion and control, nothing else."
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Flapping NAV Performs Controlled Hovering Flight

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  • by d474 (695126) on Wednesday July 01, 2009 @02:06PM (#28546159)
    ...their website is being served off of the flapping bird robot, and said robot has crashed.

    They can make flapping wing flying robots, but can't make a slashdot proof webserver, meh.
  • Slashdotted!! (Score:4, Informative)

    by anonymousNR (1254032) on Wednesday July 01, 2009 @02:07PM (#28546167) Homepage
    here's a link to another article which atleast has a computer generated image [firetrench.com]
  • Ornithopter (Score:5, Informative)

    by fiannaFailMan (702447) on Wednesday July 01, 2009 @02:10PM (#28546249) Journal

    Shouldn't this sort of thing be called an Ornithopter [wikipedia.org]?

    • US.mil: "Those terrorists will cower before our hornicopters.. orniopters.. morningchoppers. Goddamit. Private Geek, say that word at the end of my sentences from now on."

      Nah, won't work.

      • The first rule of getting funding: Create a new name for something

        It's not a border 'fence', it's a 'migration denial system' :P Fences cost nickels and dimes, but 'migration denial systems' cost -billions-.

        We have the same problem in the AI industry. 'AI' is always something in the future, something unobtainable, and actual intelligence systems in use end up being called something else entirely. People used to say if you could make a system that beats humans in chess that would be 'AI', but we have that an

    • Don't you mean Ornithopter [google.com]?
    • Nope. As you can see, the wings flap horizontally, which means it is a completely different concept, from what birds do.

      • Birds that can hover flap their wing pretty much the same way. Find some videos of hummingbirds.

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RJf-AQhDTz4&feature=channel [youtube.com]

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by metaforest (685350)

        "Nope. As you can see, the wings flap horizontally, which means it is a completely different concept, from what birds do."

        You obviously have never taken a really close look at a slow motion video of a hummingbird doing the stationkeeping thing.
        The NAV is mimicking a simplification of the hummingbird's vertical stationkeeping fight mode.

        Head, Tail and back are in a vertical orientation, (like a person standing) wings flapping in a 'sculling' motion to direct thrust downward. The wing shape

        • by bar-agent (698856)

          If you tread water, while swimming using arm-sculling, your arms are doing a slow motion version of roughly the same motions, with corrections, and for the same reasons, to maintain balance and position.

          I can't tread water, you insensitive clod!

  • People can't drive cars so now we give the same people flying cars...
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by dotancohen (1015143)

      People can't drive cars so now we give the same people flying cars...

      Flying cars? It's a nano flying vehicle, not a nanny flying vehicle.

      • Flying cars? It's a nano flying vehicle

        I thought it was a Nanu flying vehicle, which would be large and egg-shapped, and capable of interplanetary flight (at least one-way from the planet Ork). Last I heard there were issues with the landing sequence, though. Not sure if there's a RC, or if they're working on another public beta.

        I could have misread, though.

    • by oodaloop (1229816)
      Apparently, iCantSpell can't read either. It's called a Nano Air Vehicle for a reason; because it's small.
    • It isn't a car. It's a tiny robot. The whole thing weighs less than 10 grams.

  • They need to get one of those flapping NAV's to fan off their server and cool it down.
  • Youtube (Score:5, Informative)

    by reg106 (256893) on Wednesday July 01, 2009 @02:14PM (#28546325)
    Here is an AeroVironment NAV video [youtube.com] on YouTube. Not sure if it's the same one, but it was uploaded today...
  • Where's the Laserbeak tag? Or at least Lazerbeak, depending on which geek you ask.
  • by seanalltogether (1071602) on Wednesday July 01, 2009 @02:19PM (#28546423)
    Dear engineering community, that's all I've ever wanted from you in life, please make it happen.
  • Clocks (Score:3, Funny)

    by the_Bionic_lemming (446569) on Wednesday July 01, 2009 @02:24PM (#28546521)

    This just in, Prototype lost to clock with bacteria digester system.

    PETA responded with applause.

    • by thewils (463314)

      Prototype lost to clock with bacteria digester system

      Which then exploded after ingesting the high-density Lithium batteries...

  • by arizwebfoot (1228544) * on Wednesday July 01, 2009 @02:27PM (#28546577)

    it was pretty cool.

    There will be hummingbird looking things flying in and out of your nearest neighborhood crime syndicate office monitoring their activities.

    Who needs wiretapping now?

    Oh, and I think hummingbirds have prior art.

  • As part of this program AV has accomplished a technical milestone never before achieved: the controlled hovering flight of an air vehicle system with two flapping wings that carries its own energy source and uses only the flapping wings for propulsion and control.

    By man or something man-made perhaps. Now if you'll excuse me, my Hummingbird [wikipedia.org] is bored...

  • FTA, emphasis mine:

    "The goals of the NAV program -- namely to develop an approximately 10 gram aircraft that can hover for extended periods, can fly at forward speeds up to 10 meters per second, can withstand 2.5 meter per second wind gusts, can operate inside buildings, and have up to a kilometer command and control range -- will stretch our understanding of flight at these small sizes and require novel technology development." 2.5 m/s wind gust == ~5.6 mph wind gust. For outdoor use, that seems like a pr

    • Should have read:

      FTA, emphasis mine:

      "The goals of the NAV program -- namely to develop an approximately 10 gram aircraft that can hover for extended periods, can fly at forward speeds up to 10 meters per second, can withstand 2.5 meter per second wind gusts, can operate inside buildings, and have up to a kilometer command and control range -- will stretch our understanding of flight at these small sizes and require novel technology development." 2.5 m/s wind gust == ~5.6 mph wind gust. For outdoor use,

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by oodaloop (1229816)
        The part that got me was 10 meters per second. That seems pretty damn fast to me for something that small that beats its wings.
        • by Chris Burke (6130)

          That's about 22 miles per hour, or a little slower than a hummingbird. Which is indeed pretty impressive.

        • There are commercial helicopter-design UAVs weighing 15g that achieve that... about the size of a pack of cigarettes.

          So this would be competitive with that in terms of speed.

          Given that there are natural flapping-wing "designs" that achieve 25 M/s at a weight of 2.5 g (some hummingbirds), there's no reason why we shouldn't set a goal of 10 M/s at 10 g.
          • What's up with my stupid typos today?

            That should be 15 M/s at a weight of 2.5 g.
            • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

              by OeLeWaPpErKe (412765)

              Still it's quite impressive what they have today. "Withstand 2.5 m/s wind gusts" does not mean their ornithopter explodes if the wind exceeds that. It just means that above 2.5 m/s it will have to "go with the flow", and thus will lose a part of it's mobility. It can still control it's speed in 3 other directions though.

              I have the impression that birds regularly hit this limit. They try to go against the wind, and it proves too much for them. They simply land and try again 5 seconds later, which usually suc

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by maxume (22995)

        It depends on what withstand means. I've watched lots of dragonflies (and other insects) fly around in stronger winds than that, gusts too. If they mean stay in the air and mostly on course, it should at least be possible, if they mean stay in one place, probably not.

      • Actually compared to the small helicopters that I've tried, being able to fly in 5 mph wind would be quite nice. These things get seriously screwed up with a very slight breeze (I'm guessing well under 5 mph, though I'm not certain). The air coming out of my heater vent near the ceiling nearly crashes it from across the room, where I can't even feel the air anymore.

  • by dfay (75405) on Wednesday July 01, 2009 @02:31PM (#28546671)

    To any familiar with this company or this line of research in general:

    What are the advantages of the ornithopter design over a traditional helicopter design? Why is DARPA interested?

    Yes, I did read the article... and I understand what DARPA is interested in getting out of a small UAV that can hover. What I don't understand is why a normal helicopter design couldn't suit all of these needs better and cheaper.

    Regardless of the answer, it's a very cool project. Obviously very worthwhile just from the point-of-view of the scientific and engineering advances.

    • Yes, I did read the article... and I understand what DARPA is interested in getting out of a small UAV that can hover. What I don't understand is why a normal helicopter design couldn't suit all of these needs better and cheaper.

      Because a helicopter design is not as easily mistaken for a flying insect?

      Because helicopter designs are fundamentally flawed at a small scale due to the physics of vortexes? And that eventually they will want the design to be even smaller?

      And , most importnntly, because the se

    • Helicopters are LOUD

      Winged vehicles can glide (among other things) making them far more stealthy in small forms.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by socceroos (1374367)
        Yeah, with that wing span it has more chance of winning the lottery than gliding...
    • What I don't understand is why a normal helicopter design couldn't suit all of these needs better and cheaper.

      I imagine it has to do with potential mechanical problems in feathering or hinging the blades as the scale gets really small. A speck of sand could muck things up quite nicely.

  • by AdamWeeden (678591)
    What does this have to do with Norton Anti-Virus?
  • Pity nobody has thought of this before [gizmag.com]
    • It should be readily apparent that there's a massive difference between a manned aircraft and a 10g robot. It's not about "thinking of it before", DARPA isn't sponsoring a competition to see who can think of an ornithopter first. It's about execution.

      • by Locke2005 (849178)
        Toys are a lot easier to build than manned aircraft. It is widely believed that Galileo built working toy ornithopters that could fly around the room 500 years ago (granted, they probably could not hover).
        • Either you're completely missing the point or you're just trolling. I doubt that Galileo's "toy" was capable of controlled flight, let alone hovering. This isn't about building a toy that you sit on a charger for 15 minutes so that you can fly it around for 5. This is about building a robot that can travel at 10m/s and be controlled from a range of 1km.

          The goals of the NAV program -- namely to develop an approximately 10 gram aircraft that can hover for extended periods, can fly at forward speeds up to 10 meters per second, can withstand 2.5 meter per second wind gusts, can operate inside buildings, and have up to a kilometer command and control range -- will stretch our understanding of flight at these small sizes and require novel technology development.

          Does that sound like something that Galileo built 500 years ago? Does that sound like a manned aircraft? Note that the requirements don't say anything a

  • by Anonymous Coward

    and DARPA can play Quidditch.

  • Illegal to shoot birds and insects on sight? We have in some cities ordinances stating "DON'T FEED THE BIRDS/PIGEONS" due to trying to control vermin and bird droppings in public venues.

    But, suppose building owners or overreacting individuals decide to "malathion" a bird they think is a spy vehicle?

    Well, one way to deal with these things is to put sticky glue traps (mean to cat rodents) all over the place. Or, periodically "mist" the air with soap or sticky/bubbly shit to down them. Or, where there may be p

  • > Two wings for propulsion and control, nothing else.
    (emphasis mine)

    Even hummingbirds have tails. A bee might be a better example, but they have four wings, as do butterflies.

    • by HiThere (15173)

      While bees and wasps do, indeed, have four wings, two pair are joined rather inseparably. For all significant purposes that's a single pair of wings with a dual control joint at the body.

      Flies, however, do only have a single pair of wings. But the remnants of the other pair have become ... I think they call them halters ... which vibrate while the fly's flying to act as tiny gyroscopes. (I've never investigated the physics, which sounds rather improbable, but that's what I was told.)

      This is probably more

      • > But the remnants of the other pair have become ... I think they call them halters ...
        > which vibrate while the fly's flying to act as tiny gyroscopes. (I've never investigated
        > the physics, which sounds rather improbable, but that's what I was told.)

        Vibrating rods can serve as gyroscopes of a sort. It's how MEMS gyros work.

    • mosquitoes?

  • by Animats (122034) on Wednesday July 01, 2009 @03:11PM (#28547363) Homepage

    This is almost as good as WowWee's Bat and Dragon [wowwee.com]. They're little, they fly with moving wings, and they can hover. $39.99. Available wherever toys are sold [amazon.com]. That's the entry-level product; the next step up, the Green Dragonfly [wowwee.com], is an indoor/outdoor R/C ornithopter capable of hovering.

    Those models doesn't have any onboard intelligence, but some of the other WowWee flying machines have collision avoidance. WowWee has a whole line of flying and robotic toys, and they deliver impressive technology at prices well under $100. Maybe DARPA should outsource.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by bughunter (10093)
      "Almost as good?" Hardly. The WowWee toys fly with moving wings, yes, but they're more glider than ornithopter, and require a rudder. The Aerovironment NAV is a true ornithopter, the flapping movement of its wings provides all lift and thrust and 3-axis control. But because this is slashdot, you're excused for opining out of ignorance, even when it could be cured by RTFA.
    • by serutan (259622)

      Wow! Thanks for posting that. I had no idea this type of toy was available, and so cheap. You solved an upcoming birthday dilemma for me!

    • There is a w too much in your link. The site is called "wowee.com". "wowwee.com" is a scam / domain squatter site.

      • Wait, I'm wrong too. Somehow your link took me to a scam site for no reason. Damn, I hope I don't have a man-in-the-middle! That would be very bad.

        • Oh, I get it. This scam-site is a NetworkSolutions site. Apparently they intercept some sites, and show ads in-between them. There is a link on the scam site, taking me to this "explanation": http://js.kolmic.com/underconstructionnotice.php?d=Wowwee.com [kolmic.com]

          I just now got to that site from WowWee's OWN link on its OWN page, linking to THE SAME domain. WTF?
          What a bunch of asshats (NetworkSolutions)!

  • by fulldecent (598482)

    >> Flapping NAV Performs Controlled Hovering Flight

    da Vinci... is that you?

  • Perhaps developments like this were the reason the Star Wars Program [slashdot.org] was miniaturized. Protecting us from "mosquitos" sure sounds like a good cover story.
  • I wonder, why the "wings" flap horizontally instead of vertically. Looks like except for the flapping part, it has nothing to do with how birds fly, but instead is just using uplift like traditional plane wings, but moves the wings quickly trough air for an added effect. This thing could not glide for example.

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