There’s been plenty of controversy over the use of drones lately — even toy drones aren’t immune. That debate will likely get more heated as drone technology continues to get smaller and smarter.
The Air Force, for instance, is paying $3.5 million to Virginia Tech professor Wu-chun Fengto develop micro-air vehicles (MAVs), tiny drones that can do reconnaissance.
Feng previously created Green Destiny, a highly-efficient supercomputer, and launched the Green500 list of efficient supercomputing systems. Feng and his team will spend the next three years modeling the airflow over the wings of these tiny drones to help stabilize them during flight.
The reason the Air Force tapped Feng is because they want his team to accelerate the rate at which a supercomputer can simulate the computational fluid dynamics of the drones. Feng’s group and researchers from North Carolina State will build CFD codes and a hardware-software system for modeling that airflow.
The military already uses small drones for surveillance and reconnaissance, and British forces have deployed something called the Black Hornet Nano Unmanned Air Vehicle, a 4-inch drone that looks like a toy helicopter. There are also mini drones being developed for more lethal purposes.
The Virginia Tech team will be focusing on making very small (think insect-sized) drones fly more reliably.