College students gathered for an annual three-day competition at Fort Benning, on Thursday, to demonstrate the latest advances in aerial robotics, an emerging technology that could save lives in combat or natural disasters.
Some of the miniature aircraft were packed with computer gadgetry, video cameras and satellite guidance systems. Others were tiny helicopters. And some were totally out of the box, such as a yellow, four-propeller craft resembling a hovercraft — a creation of students at the Delhi College of Engineering.
All of them were programmed to accomplish their tasks on their own, without any remote-control manipulation by human controllers. They differ from other unmanned aircraft, such as the Predator and Global Hawk, which must be guided by people.
Organisers and team members said the technology could be used by the military to check areas that would be too dangerous for soldiers, to check for biological or chemical contamination and to locate victims of natural disasters.
The team from India, however, could not compete due to glitches in their machine. Their aircraft, with four propellers powered by electric motors, was damaged in shipment.
They spent 48 hours repairing it, but couldn’t get it to fly on Thursday. The University of Central Florida in Orlando brought a futuristic looking four-propeller robot made from aluminum tubing.
The South Dakota School of Mines and Technology brought a small helicopter with a large video camera in the nose for taking surveillance photos. “It’s great to be involved in this,” said team member Simon Haumont, 26. “These students are interested in doing these things. They’re doing it for the technology and fun.”