Yes, you’ve read that correctly. A drone that shoots sensor-laden darts at trees, in areas that are too hard or dangerous for humans to enter.
Drone shoots darts at trees in the name of science
You can use drones to set up a sensor network but typically you can only choose from two options:
A drone that drops sensors on the ground, which is easy to do but quite inaccurate.
A drone equipped with a manipulator that can place sensors in an exact spot, which is complicated and risky to achieve.
A third and new option is now being developed by a team of researchers at the Imperial College London’s Aerial Robotics Lab. They have come up with the concepts of shooting laser-aimed, sensor-laden darts from drones, seemingly achieving the best of both worlds, i.e. exact location and low risk.
Officially referred to as aerodynamically stabilized, spine-equipped sensor pods, these darts can be shot into a tree from up to 16 feet away with an accuracy of about 4 inches after being fired from a spring-loaded launcher, reports IEEE Spectrum.
This new dart-shooting-drone system doesn’t offer the same accuracy as a drone with a manipulator, but since the unmanned aircraft can be kept at a distance from the surface it is much safer and easier to use.
For optimal results, the drone should be at a distance of 3 to 16 feet from the tree. Any closer and the risk increases that the darts bounce off the bark. Within these parameters, the darts had a success rate between 90 to 100 percent.
Future development of this new drone technology will focus on having autonomously flying drones that can carry multiple darts at once.
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