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Science Technology

Fly, Drones, and Bring Me Data 18

Posted by Soulskill
from the also-drop-bombs-on-people-we-don't-like dept.
New submitter ScienceMon writes "Emma Maris reports in Nature how unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, are starting to catch on among scientific researchers who are using them to keep tabs on volcanoes, track endangered species, hunt down weeds, and a range of other uses. At the same time, engineers are designing ever-more sophisticated drones that can navigate and collect data autonomously. '[R]esearchers from UC Boulder have used UAVs to measure jets of wind that scream down from the Antarctic plateau into Terra Nova Bay. Such measurements could help scientists to understand the dynamics of sea-ice formation around Antarctica, which creates dense salty water that sinks and helps to drive global ocean currents. "Nobody had an aircraft out there during winter when the winds are strongest and took measurements because the conditions are too extreme," says Maslanik. The data collected so far, he says, show unexpectedly complex wind patterns, including fierce, localized jets that push sea ice off shore and speed up its formation.'"
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Fly, Drones, and Bring Me Data

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  • Useless (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Grad students are cheaper and disposable. Grad students pay you to make them do stuff, and you are even expected to make a good portion of them quit. Can't do any of that with a drone.
    • Re:Useless (Score:5, Funny)

      by K. S. Kyosuke (729550) on Wednesday June 12, 2013 @05:10PM (#43990199)
      That probably also depends on the survivability of yout ANSI-standard grad student in the average arctic wind.
    • Re:Useless (Score:5, Funny)

      by BluBrick (1924) <blubrick@@@gmail...com> on Wednesday June 12, 2013 @05:42PM (#43990503) Homepage
      I had intended to point out what I feared was a major flaw in your plan. I then realised that with sufficient thrust, grad students fly just fine.
      • That's just it, grad students are cheap and drones are expensive.

        So you have the grad students on a tether to the drone, then have the drone fly over the volcano as the grad student takes the readings/samples. That way, the drone stays safe for further flights. And it can even store the data collected if it happens to fly a bit too low...

  • That you can send UAVs into areas or conditions for which it would be dangerous to send humans is definitely an advantage. However, for any unmanned equipment you are still taking on the risk of loosing expensive machinery. Some of my coworkers in coast survey once lost an Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) at the end of a survey mission and the bosses were _not_ happy being out a few million dollars. There were heavy tides and currents at the time, so it had the potential to crash or get hit by a boat or
    • by Immerman (2627577) on Wednesday June 12, 2013 @09:44PM (#43991987)

      The beauty though is that consumer-grade UAVs are getting ever cheaper and more capable - for a few hundred to a few thousand dollars you can purchase a range of quite capable drones to carry your instrument package into all sorts of dangerous, difficult, or monotinous conditions. For UAVs as well - I don't know what the off-the-shelf options are, but there's some "open source" designs out there that are actually quite capable for some applications. Obviously such vehicles fall far short of the capabilities of their multi-million dollar cousins, but there's lots of research that doesn't really need all that extra capability..

    • by necro81 (917438)

      However, for any unmanned equipment you are still taking on the risk of loosing expensive machinery. Some of my coworkers in coast survey once lost an Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) at the end of a survey mission and the bosses were _not_ happy being out a few million dollars.

      There's a risk-benefit calculus that needs to be made in any venture, whether it is research or business. The calculus can be deathly serious when you consider putting people in harms way in order to achieve the benefit, but th

  • ok. that one is too much. too many possibilities for the /. audience.
  • I wish I could hunt down some weed using a drone.

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