Researchers use flying bugs to drop sensors from air, land them safely on the bottom — ScienceDaily

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There are many places in this world that are difficult for researchers to study, mainly because it is too dangerous for humans to get to.

Now researchers at the University of Washington have come up with a possible solution: a 98-milligram sensor system – about a tenth the weight of a jelly bean, or less than a hundredth of an ounce – that can be carried on board a small drone or an insect such as a moth, up to she achieved her goal. Then, when a researcher sends a Bluetooth command, the sensor is released from its pole and can fall and land up to 72 feet – say from the sixth floor of a building – without breaking. As soon as the sensor is on the ground, it can record data such as temperature or humidity for almost three years.

The team presented this research on September 24th at MobiCom 2020.

“We saw examples of the military dumping food and essential supplies from helicopters in disaster areas. We took inspiration from this and asked the question: Can we use a similar method to determine the conditions in regions that are too small or too dangerous for them? is? ” a person to go to? “said senior author Shyam Gollakota, a UW associate professor at the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science and Engineering.” This is the first time anyone has shown that sensors can be released by tiny drones or insects like moths, that move better than any drone through narrow spaces and can withstand much longer flights. “

While industrial-size drones use grippers to carry their payloads, the sensor is held to the drone or insect using a magnetic pen surrounded by a thin wire coil. To release the sensor, a researcher on the ground sends a wireless command that creates a current through the coil to create a magnetic field. The magnetic field causes the magnetic pen to pop out and sends the sensor on its way.

The sensor was constructed with its battery, the heaviest part, in a corner. If the sensor falls, it will turn the corner with the battery, creating additional drag force and slowing down the descent. Combined with the low weight of the sensor, the maximum fall speed remains at 11 miles per hour, so the sensor can safely hit the ground.

The researchers intend to use this system to create a sensor network within a study area. For example, researchers could use drones or insects to scatter sensors over a forest or farm that they want to monitor.

Once a mechanism has been developed to restore sensors after the batteries have run down, the team believes the system can be deployed in a wide variety of locations, including environmentally sensitive areas. The researchers plan to replace the battery with a solar cell and to automate the use of sensors in industrial environments.

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Materials provided by University of Washington. Originally written by Sarah McQuate. Note: The content can be edited by style and length.