How Drones Can Improve Scientific Research
They aren’t just for Amazon anymore.
Drones—and promises about drones—seem ubiquitous these days. And some of what we associate with drones comes with varying degrees of scariness.
We think of automated planes shooting missiles, drones flying near sensitive nuclear power plants, or quadcopters crashing into crowds while filming. If we think about everyday possibilities, we envision toys for children or companies promising deliveries, which sounds like a futuristic version of Hitchcock’s horror film The Birds.
However, drones—or, to use the technical term, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs)—show promise to help with a large number of societal and environmental problems.
As a researcher in aerial robotics, I’m trying to bring some cutting-edge ideas for using drones closer to reality. Some of these projects aim to keep sensors alive, measure hazardous or remote environments, and deal with scenarios that would be dangerous to humans.
Links to power and data
As our world becomes more filled with sensors—such as on roads and bridges, as well as machines—it will be important to ensure the increasingly distributed monitoring devices have power. Here, drones can help. UAVs can provide wireless recharging to hard-to-access locations such as sensors monitoring bridges or floating sensors on lakes.
Dr. Carrick Detweiler at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and I have developed a system that allows a UAV to fly to a bridge, identify which battery to charge, andwirelessly recharge it, in a manner similar to those pads on which you can just drop your cellphone.
Over time, the UAV can visit repeatedly, recharging all of the batteries and keeping all the sensors live. That will provide more data to determine when the bridge needs repair. Lack of even one or two key pieces of data can make the rest of the monitoring less helpful, so having functioning, charged sensors is critical to keeping the information flowing.
Our ongoing research also explores how to retrieve measurements from floating sensors, which will allow us to monitor water quality. Similar to working with bridge monitors, the UAV flies over the sensors, collecting data from each one and returning to a base station.
This speeds up data processing, and improves data collection: Without the UAV, researchers would have to get in a boat to collect all of the sensors. This is tedious and can be expensive, as the scientists need to drive a boat to a boat ramp, spend all day collecting the data from the sensors, reset the sensors and then analyze the data.
Source: Research – uavexpertnews – How Drones Can Improve Scientific Research