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Japan radiation problem and UAVs

March 17, 2011 1 comment

It is so depressing to see the difficulties that Japan is going through now. First the earthquake, then the tsunami and now the even more dire-looking nuclear radiation situation.

Footage of attempts to cool the reactors by having military helicopters dump sea water on the reactors has emerged on Youtube :

While the military personnel and the plant workers are performing heroic deeds by risking their own lives,  it seems that there is a possible way to keep up a continuous supply of water to cool the nuclear plants. Why can’t we just use some Unmanned Aerial Vehicles(UAVs) to continuously pump water from the ocean to the plants till the cooling systems are operative? This seems like the exact situation where UAVs could be used to do ‘dirty & dangerous’  jobs without risking human lives. Also, using heli-UAVs in this situation would mean that you can basically hover over the plant and continuously dump seawater. Surely, UAVs like Boeing’s Hummingbird or Northrop Grumman’s FireScout would be able to to do this. Hopefully Boeing/Northrop Grumman/EADS/Lockheed Martin/IAI would volunteer and help the Japanese in these difficult times.

P.S. – I just wrote a quick post on Randy’s blog about this and hopefully he can pass it on to people better informed to make a judgement.

If this solution is workable, the other issue would be the disposal of the UAVs heavily impacted by radiation. Probably, there are ways to take care of that, but this would be far far better than risking human lives.

Something to think about..

P.S. – Just found this news article : [Article] The people working at the nuclear plant, many of them volunteers, are real heroes. Everything must be done to help them

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Categories: Aviation, Boeing, News, UAV

The limits of small

March 2, 2011 Leave a comment

It is fairly clear that Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) are the wave of the present and are going to be well into the future. The size of UAVs spans an entire spectrum ranging from the really small (Micro Air Vehicles / MAVs like these) or the really large (High Altitude Long Endurance / HALE vehicles like these). Improving the capabilities of such vehicles, in terms of flight time, range and useful payload is an active area of research at both ends of the size scale.

However, as we progress to the extremes (especially the lower end),  it becomes clear that there is much we can learn from nature. Hummingbirds are fabulous examples of extreme flight demonstrating incredible stability, agility and maneuverability at small scales. Recently, AeroVironment, on a DARPA contract, demonstrated autonomous flight of a so-called Nano Air Vehicle (NAV) – the ‘Hummingbird’ . The vehicle is a replica of the hummingbird and looks so real that it would difficult to distinguish it from a real one if they were to appear together.

(Credit : Guy Norris, Aviation Week & Space Technology)

The demonstration is amazing for a couple of reasons :

– Ability to successfully demonstrate flapping flight as such small scales.

– Ability to maintain control in flapping flight at such small scales.

Presumably, aircraft like AeroVironment’s  ‘Hummingbird’ are to be used for surveillance purposes and this is bound to throw up a question the next time you see a hummingbird – is it looking for nectar in the flowers or is it pretending to look for nectar but actually spying on you?

Categories: Aviation, News, UAV