Lives and millions of dollars could be saved using solar technology and a new unmanned flight system design for round-the-clock surveillance.
Queensland University of Technology engineers are creating a solar unmanned airborne vehicle capable of providing 24-hour services to emergency services, without fuel or pollution.
The Green Falcon solar UAV – designed by PHD student, Wessam Al Sabban and aerospace avionics engineering supervisor, Dr Felipe Gonzalez – has completed its preliminary flight testing and with further development and funding, could be available for use in the next year.
“Bush fires in Australia have killed many people and caused millions of dollars in damage. The Green Falcon is a next generation warning system with remote sensing and visual data capability,” Dr Gonzalez said.
“Unlike manned aircraft, which have restricted air time, unmanned aerial vehicles could provide 24 hours surveillance and coverage of disaster areas.
“Solar energy runs the Green Falcon by day and charges its battery for night power, which discharges slowly until morning when a new cycle starts.”
“It is fitted with infrared cameras to locate distressed people and relay information to emergency services on the ground.
The UAV system can be used in emergency planning and search and rescue missions singularly, or in multiples as a swarm.
It has a 2.5 metre wing span and is hand-launched for easy use. It is commanded from a ground station, where an operator can receive and respond to images and video sent from the plane.
“The vehicle can survey large areas and provide near real time data to assist emergency services, and improve response times during crises such as bushfires,” Dr Gonzalez said.
Joining Wessam and Dr Gonzalez, the Green Falcon design team also included graphic designer Simone Dumbleton and PhD student Andre Pozzetti from RMIT.
The team designed the solar UAV for the RMIT University 2009 Design Challenge: Fire – which challenged researchers and specialists to generate design proposals in response to bushfire events, including fire prevention and planning, emergency response, mitigation of fire impact, and post-fire regeneration in communities.
The Green Falcon was one of only six finalists from more than 75 researchers, industry and community experts, and 35 projects.
Finalists’ ideas, including the Green Falcon will be on display at the Melbourne Museum from 10 November – 28 February 2010.
The Green Falcon was also highly commended for its use of an embedded computer in the 2009 EDN Innovation Awards- which recognise and reward excellence in electronics design, manufacture and test from Australian companies.
Further information: Dr Felipe Gonzalez, QUT Aerospace Avionics engineer, +61 7 3138 1363 or [email protected]
Green Falcon – Solar Unmanned Aerial Vehicle
The Green Falcon project aims were to develop a methodology for designing and conducting a systems engineering analysis to build and fly continuously, day and night, propelled uniquely by solar energy for 24+ with a 0.25Kg payload consuming 0.5 watt without fuel or pollution.
An airplane able to fly autonomously for many days could have many applications, such as:
- coastal or border surveillance
- atmospheric and weather research and prediction
- environmental, forestry, agricultural, and oceanic monitoring
- imaging for the media and real-estate industries.
Additional advantages include its low cost and simplistic launch. In the case of potential forest fire risks during warm and dry periods, swarms of solar airplanes can be easily launched by hand, and could efficiently monitor a large surface, rapidly reporting fires.
Rapid reporting of these and other emergency situations would allow fast intervention and reduce human and material losses.
Solar HALE – UAV (High Altitude Long Endurance Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) platforms are also expected to play a major role in communication relays, and could replace satellites in a near future.