Monday, July 24, 2017

Say Hai to THOR...!!!

We all know normal multicopter drones are effective at hovering and Vertical Take-Off and Landing, they can't travel long-distance as efficiently as aircraft with fixed wings. This has been listed as their main disadvantage. But not any more. A team of students from the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) is trying to get the best of both worlds with the Transformable HOvering Rotorcraft (THOR).
According to the design team, THOR's design inspiration came from the samara seed, 'helicopter' tree seed that is capable of flying long distances because of its stable shape. The concept was earlier raised in 1913 called the monocopter, it was "structurally efficient" ,the whole frame is used to generate lif, but "strategically inefficient." The lack of counter-rotational systems meant the pilot and cargo would have needed to spin with the rest of the aircraft, making it impractical to actually ride in.
Usually, when aircraft makers want to hover and cruise, they simply fix rotors onto rotating wings, but with THOR the wings become rotors, transitioning in mid-air and spinning around a central module like a single-bladed helicopter. THOR manages to achieve very high structural efficiency by using all of its aerodynamic surfaces in both vertical and horizontal flight modes, transforming from a flying wing into a sort of whole-body spinning bicopter thing that you really need to see to believe.

How THOR actually works?? It has two modes of flight: hovering mode (H-MOD) and cruising or fixed mode(C-MOD).When transitioning from hover mode to fixed-wing mode, the wings rotate into alignment. When the drone is in hover mode (left), it can rotate its wings (servos) by 90 degrees (middle) to transition to cruise mode (right). And when in cruise mode, it can do the reverse to switch to hover mode. During this transition, centrifugal force of switch is used to move the ballast, a weight in an aircraft used to bring the center of gravity into the allowable range, to keep the aircraft balanced.
Two key points in the innovative design are First are the bearings placed between the drone’s body and the wings. The bearings allow the wings to rotate appropriately depending on what flight mode is used. Second is the motor power, primarily in hover mode. The motor must have sufficient power during the transformation so that THOR doesn’t just fall to the ground. It needs enough power to create the instantaneous transformation without losing altitude, but not so much power that the motor will break the wings.

As you can see from the video, the design still needs a bit of work, as transitioning from one mode to the other isn’t seamless. With the exception of the servo and bearing used for wing rotation, THOR uses every other structural component in both hovering and cruising modes, making it highly efficient relative to hybrid designs. It’s very much a prototype, and both the hardware and the software controller need some optimization, but look how innovative the design is.
The UAV business is now getting a world of extremes. At one end, you've got hobby-grade consumer gear, which has improved dramatically in the last couple of years, and at the other end, you've got the military gear tough, rugged. There are no real standards for industrial-grade drones yet, but it is a continually growing market as all sorts of companies in all sorts of areas start to discover the power and potential of unmanned aerial systems. The advantage lies in its applications as the commercial world can see the benefits of industrial-grade UAV tools. It'll be interesting to see what sort of machinery and standards develop in this space over the next few years.
Applications of THOR seems to be endless i.e. anything that requires both long range and an agile hover, and because of its inherent potential to scale, it can be made smaller than other hybrid platforms,which will unlock many possibilities where current hybrid UAVs are too big or bulky to operate! These include agriculture, surveillance, and package delivery, all of which are hot topics in drone development as of the moment. I really hope this turns out to be a platform for the development of the next-generation unmanned programs.

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Sunday, July 09, 2017

First Generation of Batteryfree Cellphone!!!!

Don’t you ever felt frustrated and thought of throwing your phone away due to dying batteries in an emergency?? Here is some news, the recharging challenges with cellphones may get away from the new innovations from US. A team from the University of Washington have developed battery-free phone that can harness power from radiofrequency (RF) waves sent to it from a nearby base station. The phone not only harnesses the power it needs to operate from those waves, but can also place a voice call by modifying and reflecting the same waves back to the base station, through a technique known as backscattering.
The battery-free device prototype is built using commercial-off-the-shelf components on a printed circuit board. It can operate on power that is harvested from RF signals transmitted by a basestation 31 feet (9.4 m) away. Using power harvested from ambient light with tiny photodiodes, the device can also communicate with a basestation that is 50 feet (15.2 m) away. The team demonstrated that the prototype can perform basic phone functions such as transmitting speech and data and receiving user input via buttons. Using Skype, researchers were able to receive incoming calls, dial out and place callers on hold with the battery-free phone. 
One of the phone's key innovations is the use of analog rather than digital voice encoding, which the researchers say saves a substantial amount of power. Supplemental power to increase the device’s range comes from photodiodes, essentially tiny solar panels. Unlike a traditional cell phone which uses 800 milliwatts(tens of thousands of times more power), when making a call. The entire device consumes just 2 to 3 microwatts of power to place or receive a call.
The battery free phone takes advantage of tiny vibrations in a phone’s microphone or speaker that occur when a person is talking into a phone or listening to a call. An antenna connected to those components converts that motion into changes in standard analog radio signal emitted by a cellular base station. This process essentially encodes speech patterns in reflected radio signals in a way that uses almost no power. To transmit speech, the phone uses vibrations from the device’s microphone to encode speech patterns in the reflected signals. To receive speech, it converts encoded radio signals into sound vibrations that that are picked up by the phone’s speaker.
The UW phone is also half-duplex, that means there is a button that users need to press to switch between sending and receiving mode. A microcontroller manages the RF switch, connecting the microphone to the antenna when a user presses a button to talk, and connecting the earphones when the user wants to listen. It’s more similar to a walkie-talkie than a real cell phone. But I dont think, it wont be a technical hurdle to create a system that detects when the user is talking or not and make the switch between these two modes automatically. Hope researchers can fix phone's biggest drawback sooner.
There is a long way to go before it hits markets. Currently the phone has a basic touch-sensitive number pad and its only display is a tiny red LED that glows briefly when a key is pressed. The researchers are looking into equipping it with an e-ink display, which doesn't consume a lot of power as well as a low power camera. The team is also looking forward to improving it’s operating range and encrypting conversation to make it more secure.
In this scenario where phones have become the most important devices that virtually everyone uses and we all love to have a batteryfree smartphone. Its surely a major leap in moving beyond chargers, cords and dying phones and is also an incredible step towards technology. What do you think of a cell phone never dying on your hands in the future?

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