Engineering researchers from University of Michigan have recently returned from sea trials off the coast of Monterey, Calif., after demonstrating the capability of Flying Fish to DARPA officials who is funding this project.
The Flying Fish is an unmanned seaplane with a 7-foot wingspan approximately to the size of a large pelican . It is developed by Marine Hydrodynamics Laboratories at the University of Michigan College of Engineering as an autonomous buoy for persistent surveillance in the open ocean. The Flying Fish is capable of drifting quietly to the edge of its watch circle, harnessing and harvesting energy from sun, wind, and waves as it drifts. Once it reaches the edge, it takes off like a seabird on its own and flies to the other side of the circle where it autonomously lands and begins the drift cycle again. Though the take off and landing in the water was a big effort, 22 sorties were successfully carried out.
Flying Fish is an electric vehicle that drifts until its onboard Global Positioning System tells the craft it has floated too far. That triggers the takeoff sequence, which gets the plane airborne in just 10 meters. Other GPS coordinates trigger the landing sequence. The landing is basically a shallow descent. The craft accomplishes both in simple ways.
The Flying Fish was a collaborative effort among researchers in the departments of Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and Aerospace Engineering. Next, the team plans to outfit the plane with solar power and add more sensors.
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