Drones for daily life are on the horizon

By Catherine

Written by Catherine Bolgar*

Drone

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), or drones, are used to hunt for oil, to monitor hurricanes, to film movies and for search and rescue operations. As regulations become clearer on how and where UAVs can be used, and as technology continues to develop, we’ll see even more applications for UAVs in the future.

When UAVs were strictly for military use, the electronics onboard were big and clunky,” says Michael W. Heiges, principal research engineer at the Georgia Tech Research Institute in Atlanta. “The computers didn’t have a lot of capacity.”

Big UAVs have to be controlled by a team of people and can cost over $1 million. However, technological advances in consumer electronics have driven down costs and improved sensors that could also be used on UAVs, making them smaller, cheaper and more nimble. Micro UAVs have wingspans as small as one centimeter, though such tiny drones can fly only a short time and can use only limited sensors. In between lie a range of UAVs that can cost $500 to $2,000.

Now you can maneuver them around very easily, like a hockey puck on ice,” Dr. Heiges says. “It took away a lot of the skill involved to operate.”

Amazon.com Inc., the online retailer based in Seattle, said last December it was developing drones for package delivery. The company’s goal is for packages to arrive within 30 minutes of an order being placed online. However, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration said such a use of UAVs wouldn’t be allowed, at least for now.

Delivery drone

Dr. Heiges and Georgia Tech are working with cable news channel CNN to study how to safely use UAVs for newsgathering.

In the U.S. and some other countries, small UAVs are governed by the same rules as remote-controlled model airplanes, which must fly no more than 400 feet (120 meters) above the ground. They also must be kept away from populated areas and full-size aircraft. There’s also a distinction between hobby use and commercial use. All business use of UAVs is under FAA regulation, and requires a certified aircraft and certified pilot.

Here lies the rub: For now, in the U.S., small UAVs need to stay within sight of their operator on the ground, and bigger UAVs need to be monitored by a chase plane. That limits the ability to send in UAVs where it’s too dangerous or difficult for people to go—for example, near a railroad derailment with a toxic spill or to fly over a damaged nuclear plant to track radiation leaks. In Europe, UAVs are being used for safety inspections of infrastructure, such as rail tracks, dams, dykes and power grids, according to a communication from the European Commission in April. National authorities in Europe also are using them for disaster relief, such as flying over flooded areas or supporting fire fighters.

Larger UAVs are being flown remotely—though over unpopulated areas—for example, in search and rescue operations in national parks, or behind the lines of wildfires, Dr. Heiges says.

Technology could address this challenge soon. “The main thing people would like to see is sense and avoid capability, either radar or video or some combination of the two,” he says. “That capability is needed to avoid other aircraft and for being able to understand how far away other aircraft are. Until we do that, UAVs have to remain in sight of an observer on the ground.”

The current sensing systems “all have shortcomings in one way or another,” he adds. For example, radar-based systems are good for detecting other metal aircraft but not seeing things such as parachutists or balloonists. Cameras on UAVs can transmit images of what’s near a UAV to a person farther away, but the cameras don’t work well in clouds or if they’re facing the sun.

To be reliable enough to pass regulatory muster, sense and avoid systems “will have to be better than a human,” Dr. Heiges says.

Until then, there are many applications for UAVs in unpopulated areas.

One of the first markets that’s really ripe for use of the technology is agriculture,” says N. Dennis Bowman, extension educator, commercial agriculture-crops at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “The ability to do surveillance of crops and livestock really fits the technology.”

Farmers in general are cultivating more acres, making it more difficult to get to every patch of land to see whether there’s a need for more irrigation, or whether pests or disease are affecting crops.

We’re looking for breakthroughs in software that can take series of photos and stitch them together to get a big picture, but without having to fly at such a high altitude that the UAV would interfere with airplanes,” he says. “At lower altitudes, you could get better resolution and more detail, but you also want to see a whole field at one time.”

In Japan, farmers use UAVs for crop dusting, which isn’t allowed in the U.S.—though the size of U.S. fields is too big for the carrying capacity of drones today, Mr. Bowman says.

Ranchers, whose sections are 600 acres or more, could use UAVs to locate cattle, to save crews’ time when the animals need to be rounded up for procedures such as vaccinations.

*For more from Catherine, contributors from the Economist Intelligence Unit along with industry experts, join The Future Realities discussion.

Dassault Systèmes will talk “Services” during the After:Market Conference, October 22– 24, 2014

By Diana

With margins on a continual decline, Original Equipment Manufacturers can no longer rely on selling equipment to make a profit. OEMs are entering the 4th industrial revolution that partly relies on providing high added value services to make their customers’ day-to-day job easier.

In addition to being a CAD provider, Dassault Systèmes presents industrial companies with many solutions to manage the product throughout its entire lifecycle and to complete its customers’ journey by providing them with value added services.

Thanks to the brand expertise of EXALEAD, Dassault Systèmes proposes key technologies and new applications to address large volume and heterogeneous data challenges with performance and agility. EXALEAD CloudView for e-services will transform your data into real enterprise benefits (boosting sales, improving machine knowledge, facilitating interaction between customer and manufacturer, offering advanced reporting…).

By associating an Industry approach with EXALEAD service expertise, Dassault Systèmes is now able to provide Industrial Equipment companies with a tailored service offer.

If you want to learn more about our service offering for the Industrial Equipment industry, come to the After:Market Conference, October 22nd – 24th 2014 at The Grand Hotel Huis ter Duin, in the Netherlands.

Register now

 

CATIA 3DEXPERIENCE, the Winning Partner for the DUT Racing Team

By Thierry

Dutch university students from TU Delft had only nine months to design and build a new version of their electric car that they hoped would once again lead them to victory in the 2014 edition of the Formula Student competition.

The team used design and simulation technology from Dassault Systèmes’  3DEXPERIENCE platform to design the DUT14, an electric car featuring numerous improvements over last year’s model.

Global Design Competition

Every year, some of the world’s brightest engineering students pool their talents to design what they hope will be the winning car in the annual Formula Student competition. It is an opportunity for 500 teams from all over the world to put their skills and imaginations to work during their free time, including evenings, weekends and holidays, for a good portion of the school year. In addition to the challenge, it is a tribute to the engineers who founded this competition over 30 years ago. “This international design competition was the idea of the Society of Automotive Engineers who thought that students graduating from engineering school did not have sufficient practical design experience, nor the right project management and team-working skills,” explained Tim de Morée, team leader, Formula Student team at TU Delft in the Netherlands. “So they designed the Formula Student competition to enable them to acquire all three.” Students must design, build, test and drive a formula-type racing car as well as create an associated business plan for potential investors. Contestants’ entries are judged based on a series of tests that include speed, design, safety, reliability, and cost.

Delft University of Technology is a repeat participant in this competition and winner of numerous Formula Student races in the past.

Tim de Morée is this year’s leader of TU Delft’s 86 students team. Once again the students attempted to outperform the other teams in three key races – Formula Student United Kingdom (FSUK), Formula Student Germany (FSG) and Formula Student Austria (FSA) – with their new and improved DUT14. “You may think that after designing 13 cars that we benefit from our past experiences and know-how,” de Morée said. “This is not entirely true since 80% of the team is new to this competition. The other 20% are the few alumni who participated in this year’s adventure providing us with their design and project management expertise.” As a result, de Morée’s team completely redesigned a vehicle from scratch. The four-wheel drive car has four equal motors that enable the car to accelerate even faster and to regenerate energy on all wheels while braking. “This constant reuse of energy allowed us to choose a much smaller and lighter battery package,” de Morée said.

Engineering Firm.com

The team is run like a small engineering company with students working in one of five departments: electronics, powertrain, vehicle dynamics, chassis and aerodynamics. “Team members are responsible for designing a part, for example the steering system or electrical wire harness. Only the most standard parts such as dampers or sensors were purchased from suppliers but we tried to do as much as we could by ourselves.”

The DUT14 was designed and tested using solutions from the 3DEXPERIENCE platform. Every “department” completed its objectives using the 3DEXPERIENCE solutions. For example, students used CATIA for their design work and the analysis and simulation solution SIMULIA to test their design concepts. “This was very beneficial due to our tight schedule and limited resources,” Marinus van des Meijs, chief engineer, said. “We had only nine months to complete the project, of which three were dedicated to design.”

Lighter, More Energy Efficient

One of the team’s objectives this year was to make the car lighter than last year. “With a lighter car we improve energy efficiency and performance when accelerating or braking,” van des Meijs explained. “The DUT14 weighed 155 kg, down from last year’s model, which weighed an already light 179 kg. We owe this success in part to the 3DEXPERIENCE platform and its integrated simulation solutions, which enabled us to test each design iteration with amazing speed and precision. “All five departments of our company shared the same designs so when one group made changes, the others saw the updated design in real-time,” van des Meijs said. “Moreover, design history was capitalized, which allowed us to go back to previous design versions if needed at the push of a button.

Most of all, potential design problems were detected early on and not when we were physically assembling the car, which would have hurt our timing.”

Also new this year were the tires for the DUT14. “We designed them ourselves this time and made them wider, with a smaller outer radius and lighter than last year,” van des Meijs said. “We believed it would improve performance. Here again, without the 3DEXPERIENCE platform we would not have been able to test if our design caused interferences when steering. We were able to look at 55 different design iterations with CATIA before finding the right configuration.

The electrical department used the CATIA Electrical solution to define the wire layout, splice positions and wire lengths. “CATIA helped us to position our wiring in the most efficient way while keeping total mass on par with last year’s model,” van des Meijs said. “It is also important to allow slack where the connectors are and not in the rest of the wire harness. CATIA helped us place them exactly where we wanted. One key value of CATIA Electrical is its ability to quickly produce a precise design for routing. We used the Flattening feature to create the wiring drawings at a scale of 1:1. This made it easier to visualize every detail, which was very helpful,” he said.

CATIA, a Winning Partner

The Society of Automotive Engineers would have been proud to see how the design competition they imagined provides participants with valuable engineering skills. The TU Delft team put these skills to good use winning the championship title at the Silverstone competition and receiving numerous awards at the Hockenheim race in Germany including the Audi ultra-award for best lightweight concept. “It was a heart-stopping few days of ups and downs but we did it,” de Morée exclaimed.

With CATIA we had confidence in our design and in our ability to come up with the best vehicle possible in a very short timeframe.”

Discover the full story in video on 3ds.com

CATIA, the Winning Partner for the DUT Racing team



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