Friday, October 30, 2009

World's First Controllable Monocopter - Maple Tree Seeds & Defense Through Surveillance

COLLEGE PARK, Md. Maple tree seeds (or samara fruit) have been delighting children since times immemorial. Interestingly, the aspiring aerospace engineers at the University of Maryland's Clark School of Engineering have been learning the techniques to exploit the Maple tree seeds’ unique design for surveillance in emergency situations, including defense.

Back in the decade of 1950s, researchers tried to develop an unmanned aerial vehicle based on the way a maple seed falls to the ground. However, the wind proved to be a great hurdle knocking off all the vehicles one by one without letting them land safely on the ground. Till June, 2009, the safe landing of the vehicle on the ground had been an open challenge for all the engineers.

However, Clark School students finally succeeded in solving the problem. The strategy opted by them allowed the vehicle to take off and finally it was deployed from an aircraft. However, it was found to be more economical and easier to launch the device by hand.

Further, the students studied the maple tree seeds thoroughly to develop the first uncontrollable MAV monocopter. A new design was developed introducing tiny flyers that flew with natural elegance. Next came the first rotorcraft of the world. It was controllable, single winged and comparatively manageable and could be quite useful in surveillance for defense, fire control, and various other rescue purposes.

One of the researchers, Evan Ulrich, remarked, “Natural maple seeds usually trade off altitude for rotation as they fall to the ground." The altitude and the rotation caused by the wind provide the maple seed trees with power that’s required to fly in the air. It will be interesting to see what type of applications are actually born out of this 'new' technology. Hobby flight? Aerial Surveilance maybe? This should be an interesting technology to see develop in the near future. For further details, contact the Maryland Office of University Communications.


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