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Science Technology

Fly, Drones, and Bring Me Data 18

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 on Wednesday June 12, 2013 @05:40PM (#43989869)
    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.
  • by Immerman ( 2627577 ) on Wednesday June 12, 2013 @10:44PM (#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..

All science is either physics or stamp collecting. -- Ernest Rutherford