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System Enables Unmanned Aircraft to Detect Another in Flight

Queensland University of Technology Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) researchers have made what's believed to be a world-first breakthrough for small unmanned aircraft (UA), developing an onboard system that has enabled a UA to detect another aircraft using vision while in flight.

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Flying Robot Would Monitor Environmental Health

With a contract from the U.S. Army, the University of Nevada, Reno is partnering with NevadaNano to develop a robotic flying vehicle that can be used for environmental health and safety monitoring of large areas. The goal is development of a flying robot with integrated chemical sensing, inter-unit communication, and the potential for self-powering. It will be able to "swarm" with other similar units to monitor, collect, and analyze samples while in flight and relay data immediately.

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Shape-Changing Wing Flap Reduces Drag and Noise

A milestone for the Adaptive Compliant Trailing Edge (ACTE) project at NASA's Armstrong Flight Research Center occurred with the delivery of two revolutionary experimental flaps designed and built by FlexSys of Ann Arbor, MI, for installation on the Gulfstream G-III Aerodynamics Research Test Bed aircraft. Researchers are replacing the airplane’s 19-foot-long aluminum flaps with advanced, shape-changing assemblies that form continuous bendable surfaces.

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Engineers Build 3D Acoustic Cloaking Device

Using little more than a few perforated sheets of plastic and a staggering amount of number crunching, Duke engineers have demonstrated a three-dimensional acoustic cloak. The new device reroutes sound waves to create the impression that both the cloak and anything beneath it are not there.The acoustic cloaking device works in all three dimensions, no matter which direction the sound is coming from or where the observer is located, and holds potential for future applications such as sonar avoidance and architectural acoustics.The materials manipulating the behavior of sound waves are simply plastic and air. Once constructed, the device looks like several plastic plates with a repeating pattern of holes poked through them. The plates are stacked on top of one another to form a sort of pyramid.The cloak must alter the waves’ trajectory to match what they would look like had they had reflected off a flat surface. Because the sound is not reaching the surface beneath, it is traveling a shorter distance and its speed must be slowed to compensate.To test the cloaking device, researchers covered a small sphere with the cloak and “pinged” it with short bursts of sound from various angles. Using a microphone, they mapped how the waves responded and produced videos of them traveling through the air.SourceLearn about an Acoustic Liner for Turbomachinery Applications.

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Programmable Metamaterial Damps Vibrations

Researchers from Empa and ETH Zurich have produced a material prototype that damps vibrations completely and specifically conducts certain frequencies.  The working model consists of a one-meter by one-centimeter aluminum plate that is one millimeter thick. The sheet-metal strip vibrates at different frequencies. In order to control the wave propagation, ten small aluminum cylinders (7 mm thick, 1 cm high) are attached to the metal. Between the sheet and the cylinders sit piezo discs, which can be stimulated electronically and change their thickness quickly. The model enables the researchers to control how waves are allowed to propagate in the sheet-metal strip. Such a “metamaterial” could fundamentally revolutionize mechanical engineering and plant construction. In the future, the material could react to current vibration readings and adapt its vibration properties at lightning speed. SourceAlso: See other Materials tech briefs.

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Handheld Camera Detects Nuclear Radiation

A handheld radiation camera developed by University of Michigan engineering researchers offers nuclear plant operators a faster way to find potentially dangerous hot spots and leaky fuel rods.The new 'Polaris-H' detector lays a gamma-ray map over an image of a room, pinpointing radiation sources with unprecedented precision. At least four U.S. nuclear power plants are using versions of the camera, which is now available commercially through the U-M spinoff company H3D."This technology enables people to 'see' radiation," said Zhong He, a professor of nuclear engineering and radiological sciences at U-M and CEO of H3D. "This should enable the early detection of leaks by locating abnormal radiation, a much better understanding of radiation sources to protect workers, and it could be a tool for the cleanup effort of nuclear waste and fallout, such as in Fukushima in Japan."SourceAlso: Learn about a Wide-Range Neutron Detector for Space Nuclear Applications.

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NASA Data Helps Growers During California's Drought

Following two consecutive years of drought conditions, 2014 is shaping up to be one of the driest years on record in California. Since 1982, the California Department of Water Resources (CDWR) has operated more than 140 monitoring stations that provide daily measurements of agricultural weather conditions and the amount of water lost to the atmosphere by a well-water grass surface. Data from this network is distributed through the California Irrigation Management Information System (CIMIS), operated by CDWR. To date, this information has been shown to have great value as a tool for irrigation managers to determine the water requirements for their crops.

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