UAV Concept: Mother Hen and Friendly Chicks

This concept aircraft features a flying carrier with ejectable UAVs to conduct missions in remote areas

1 min read
UAV Concept: Mother Hen and Friendly Chicks

One of the more interesting concepts we saw at the AUVSI show this year (and possibly just ran across while we were sorting through our piles of conference swag) was this UAV, from Canadian company Eqquera. Called the SQ-EQQ, it consists of a "mother hen" autonomous delta-wing jet-thing that can deploy "friendly chick" sub-UAVs to conduct missions all by themselves.

The "mother hen and friendly chicks" thing is a less deadly version of "mother hen with deadly chicks," which refers to a 1930s era Soviet program featuring bombers launching little parasite aircraft to drop more bombs on stuff. Here's a slightly better illustration of how the SG-EQQ is supposed to work:

The version of the UAV illustrated above is carrying just one friendly chick that looks exactly like a UFO, but other configurations can carry up to three friendly chicks that look slightly less exactly like UFOs. The chicks can undock and dock autonomously, giving the system a significant increase in range and versatility over other UAVs, since you get all of the capability of a small rotor-based UAV without sacrificing the range and efficiency of a large jet-based UAV.

Eqquera is designed for autonomous operation in remote areas, specifically arctic ecosystem monitoring and fighting wildfires with "water missiles:"

At AUVSI, Eqquera had a small-scale non-functioning prototype of the carrier aircraft, and considering the complexity of what they're trying to do, our guess is that it's going to take them quite a while to get a full-size flying version of the complete system off the ground.

And I'm not sure what a water missile is, but I badly want to launch one at something dry.

Via [ Eqquera ]

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Robot with threads near a fallen branch

RoMan, the Army Research Laboratory's robotic manipulator, considers the best way to grasp and move a tree branch at the Adelphi Laboratory Center, in Maryland.

Evan Ackerman

“I should probably not be standing this close," I think to myself, as the robot slowly approaches a large tree branch on the floor in front of me. It's not the size of the branch that makes me nervous—it's that the robot is operating autonomously, and that while I know what it's supposed to do, I'm not entirely sure what it will do. If everything works the way the roboticists at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory (ARL) in Adelphi, Md., expect, the robot will identify the branch, grasp it, and drag it out of the way. These folks know what they're doing, but I've spent enough time around robots that I take a small step backwards anyway.

This article is part of our special report on AI, “The Great AI Reckoning.”

The robot, named RoMan, for Robotic Manipulator, is about the size of a large lawn mower, with a tracked base that helps it handle most kinds of terrain. At the front, it has a squat torso equipped with cameras and depth sensors, as well as a pair of arms that were harvested from a prototype disaster-response robot originally developed at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory for a DARPA robotics competition. RoMan's job today is roadway clearing, a multistep task that ARL wants the robot to complete as autonomously as possible. Instead of instructing the robot to grasp specific objects in specific ways and move them to specific places, the operators tell RoMan to "go clear a path." It's then up to the robot to make all the decisions necessary to achieve that objective.

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