Engineers have developed a prototype amphibious drone that dives into the waters like a gannet and leaps out of the water like a flying fish, to collect water samples.
Gannets are the largest seabirds that catches fish by diving at a speed of 60 miles per hour into the sea, while flying fish can make powerful, self-propelled leaps out of the water. Then, what’s the similarities of these amazing animals with that of the AquaMAV drone? Well, both have wing-like ‘fins’ that help them glide swiftly over considerable distances.
The team at Imperial College London developed this prototype drone from the inspiration of two of the amazing species. The AquaMAV is designed to collect water samples to monitor water quality in reservoirs and measuring changes of salinity in oceans to gauge the effects of climate change. Currently, researches use boats to manually collect these samples. But with this efficient and effective prototype, the AquaMAV lowers costs and saves time, while also reduces risks in dangerous situations such as in disaster zones or inaccessible areas (i.e. deep under the ocean).
The AquaMAV drone only weighs 200g (7 oz) and has a fixed-wing design. It can travel up to 97 kilometres per hour (60 mph), allowing the slender body to penetrate in and out of the water. Once out of the water and into the air, the AqauMAV can fly up to 48 kilometres per hour (30 mph) and have a flight time of at most 14 minutes. The researchers say this allows the drone a range of 5 km (3.1 miles), ensuring that the researchers maintain a safe distance when dealing in hazardous situations.
After collecting water samples, the drone then uses a carbon dioxide tank and hallow tube to generate a powerful burst of water, powerful enough to launch out of the water.
“During an emergency scenario such as a major oil leak an AquaMav could fly and dive into isolated patch of water, where it could collect samples or loiter and record environmental data. The vehicle could then perform a short take-off and return to its launch site to submit samples for analysis. This would enable a fast, targeted response that could not be matched by the current methods,” said the director of the Aerial Robotics Lab in Imperial’s Department of Aeronautics, Dr Mirko Kavac.
The researchers are currently looking to collaborate with oceanographers and various related authorities to take their research to the nest level. The motive is to deploy the drone in a wider variety of situations, to test the robot’s limits to waves, wind and weather.
[Source: Imperial College London]