senseSoar, a fixed-wing, solar-powered Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (Image credit: ETH Zurich)
Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) have recently made great leaps towards an effective application in civil missions. Prime scenarios include mapping and inspection of agricultural or industrial areas, as well as Search and Rescue (SAR) support through precise disaster area mapping, victim detection, or operation as communication relays. Concerning the SAR scenario, ETH Zurich is involved in ICARUS and SHERPA, two large EU-funded projects focusing on developing and integrating SAR-robotics directly with end-users such as the Belgian B-FAST team and the Club Alpino Italiano. Based on its long history in Unmanned Aerial Systems, ETH Zurich’s Autonomous Systems Lab (ASL) contributes through the development of fixed-wing, solar-powered Unmanned Aerial Vehicles. Aircraft such as ASL’s senseSoar (figure 1) combine a flight endurance of more than 10 hours with advanced sensor systems supported by visible light and thermal cameras: the setup allows for extended and precise navigation and mapping – and even victim detection – in visually challenging conditions (such as during night). Besides pushing the frontiers in terms of autonomous aerial navigation and mapping, recent progress at ASL includes the development of the AtlantikSolar UAS (figure 2), which extends endurance to more than 24 hours and thus opens up opportunities in long-term mapping, inspection or SAR-support. All these efforts are backed by the recent industrial interest in solar-powered UAS as well as thanks to significant contributions by the robotics research and open source UAS communities.
AtlantikSolar UAS (Image credit: ETH Zurich)
Check the aerial robots gallery for further images.
Further information:AtlantikSolar: www.atlantiksolar.ethz.ch/ICARUS: www.fp7-icarus.eu/SHERPA: www.sherpa-project.eu/