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Tech Industry

Robotic seaplane's a hit with the dolphins

Michigan researchers have perfected a DARPA-funded project for unmanned aerial surveillance of oceans.

A new aquatic UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) is skimming the briny deep. It's the Flying Fish, fresh out of the labs at the University of Michigan. According to its developers, the seaplane can take off, fly, and land autonomously in moderate seas some 6 feet high, all while performing surveillance functions and relaying information back to a home base. Considering the technical complexity of taking off and landing on pontoons in choppy water, this is no small feat. According to MSNBC: "The craft (has) to acquire data all the while, through the onboard inertial gyro sensors it uses to measure roll and pitch and the pressure sensors it uses to measure airspeed." The UM College of Engineering Web site notes that the aircraft, which is designed to harvest energy from the sun, wind, and waves as it drifts, could someday be used for environmental monitoring.

The locals seem to like it, too: researchers near Monterey, Calif., reported a pod of dolphins playing with the plane, diving under its pontoons and leaping in its wake.

Read the full story at MSNBC: "Dolphins play with robotic seaplane"