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  • Portable Remote Sensing Takes Flight
    Posted by Mark Carreau 4:27 PM on Sep 02, 2010

    blog post photo
    German Micro-air vehicle takes flight. Photo Credit/ESA

    A German start up company, MAVinci, with help from the European Space Agency, is pioneering the flight of micro-air vehicles guided by satellite navigation for rapid-response remote sensing.

    The technology promises a more flexible, cost-effective means of surveying disaster zones, large development projects and waste disposal sites than does traditional reconnaissance with aircraft and satellites.

    One of the MAVs, with a wing span of less than six feet and equipped with an optical camera system, has assisted farmers in Spain's Andalusia region survey for land erosion.

    ESA's Technology Transfer Program Office in Darmstadt, Germany, has assisted the startup with attitude determination software as well as the use of satellite navigation data.

    "The principles for the attitude determination of satellites and for autonomous aircraft such as MAVinci’s are identical, only the scale is different," said Michael Flegel, an ESA flight dynamics engineer, in a statement. "Where a satellite might use the measured direction of the sun, Earth or of known star patterns, the MAV aircraft will use the local magnetic field direction, the direction of 'down' and similar local quantities. Obtaining meaningful information from the data is an art, and the expertise can be applied to both satellites and spacecraft alike."

    MAVinci's micro plane relies on an autopilot from take off to landing. Satellite navigation provides a flight path and acts as a trigger for the on-board camera when it's time to image the target. As a backup, a pilot on the ground using radio can take control, if necessary.

    Tags: os99, Germany, remote-sensing

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