A robotic fish that makes friends

July 4, 2010 Technology No Commenti

Robotic fish can be used for a wide range of applications, ranging from gathering underwater images for scientific usage, monitoring of the waters’ health conditions to fight pollution, or even underwater surveillance.

But if there is one thing they can not really do, it is being recognized by other fish as one of them. The often unnatural motion, as well as size and color, may end up scaring away other fish and cause them to turn their electronic cousin into an outcast.

All this seems to be in the past now, thanks to a research project that scientists from the University of Leeds are working on. The British researchers have created a robot fish which looks like a common stickleback fish.

This robot, aptly named Robofish, is connected to a stand through a small rigid tube, and below the stand is a small magnet. By placing another magnet on the outside of the glass and moving it, the stand that keeps the fish in place will move, and our friend Robofish will seem to be freely swimming in its tank.

Once placed in a tank with real fish, it has been programmed to move according to a preset route, at a speed slightly higher than other fish of this species. The live fish immediately followed him, first one by one and then in groups, as for them, speed is considered as a sign of strength and self-assurance, which causes them to see their robotic friend as a leader, especially if they are in a new environment. In fact, once they are accustomed to their new tank, they tend to follow it much less.

The experiment might lead to interesting developments not only for monitoring conditions of water, but also to study the fishes’ migratory routes and the effect that human intervention might have on these routes.

Thermal cameras, for clear images even in the dark of night

July 4, 2010 Technology No Commenti

When you are out on the open sea, surrounded by total darkness, it is very difficult to notice and be aware of an impending danger, especially if this danger is represented by other boats approaching your with lights off and with not exactly friendly intentions.

For boats that are not equipped with expensive state-of-the-art radar technology, a solution comes from the usage of a thermal camera. Thermal cameras are capable of recording sharp images even in the darkest night, detecting a possible approaching danger or enemy thanks to their thermal image.

Thanks to their special sensors, thermal cameras can see not only in the dark, but also beyond a thick layer of dark smoke. This makes them very useful not only to protect security and safety on board of a boat out at sea, but also, for example, as a trustworthy tool for firefighters during a rescue operation after a city fire; this tool can literally save lives, by detecting the presence of persons trapped behind the smoke, allowing for a prompt rescue intervention by firemen.

Furthermore, thanks to their small size and light weight, they are suitable for being used in motion, for example during police operations of search and capture of criminals; these operations must take place in the dark to ensure success, without arising unnecessary suspicion and attention.

The resolution provided by this kind of camera is 240 x 180 pixels, with a 24-degree view field, which allows for an optimal situation awareness and immediate action in case of danger.
For more information about operation and cost of thermal cameras, you can visit the Endoacustica website and request a tailored advice.

A marathon for low-emission ultralight aircraft

July 4, 2010 Technology No Commenti

For research purposes, for showcasing the latest novelties or for pure and simple fun, from the 9th to the 11th of July, the Charmeil aerodrome, near Vichy (France) will host the first ecologic marathon for motorized ultralight aircraft.

The winner of this contest will be the one who covers the longest distance with a small amount of fuel, while producing the lower amount of polluting emissions. The contest is divided in two sections: one is open to students and research institutes, while the other is for manufacturers and producers of ultra light aircraft and solutions for this field.

The first category, generally, is the one that features new or innovative ideas and solutions which might in the future be applied to mass production, while the second represents the next step, that is, the application of these (or similar) solutions on more conventional models present on the mass market.

Aircraft must be built according to the French regulations for motorized ultralight aircraft (ULM), and must as well be equipped with radio and GPS devices. Along with the fuel and electricity consumption, the level of acoustic and environmental pollution will also be measured, and in the end, the winner will be declared by using several factors which include not only the distance covered, but also the lower impact in terms of environmental footprint.

Along with the marathon, there will also be an exhibition which demonstrates usage of sources of renewable energy on automatic vehicles, both in the air and on the ground.

The main goal of this event is to develop new ideas for energy saving, by applying alternative energy sources on ultralight aircraft. These solutions might one day find application also in commercial avionics, to build more energy-conscious aircraft, which will pollute the air even less.

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