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Unmanned seaplane shape-shifts to fly steadily

The EUREKA E! 3931 ASARP project is testing a UAV whose wing and tail tabs move to counteract wind in the hopes that it can improve maritime search-and-rescue operations.

Search-and-rescue missions come with a built-in irony. Intended to save lives, they often occur in deadly conditions, where crews put their own lives at risk to rescue the endangered.

This maritime UAV prototype is in final testing in Cyprus. GGD Engineering

During maritime search-and-rescue operations, aircraft are often held back by gale winds and rough seas. But thanks to a prototype unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) being tested in Cyprus right now, the search part of search-and-rescue could soon be done via remote control.

Born out of the EUREKA E! 3931 ASARP Project in Europe, the seaplane's shape-shifting technology involves three aeroservoelastic trim tabs--developed by the Israeli Computational Fluid Dynamics Center--on its wings and tail, which perform rapid shape changes to counteract gusts of wind. The resulting aircraft has proved to fly steadily even in inclement weather.

The plane also carries cameras that transmit live feed to the command center and can take off and land on ground or water, but it's no Voyager; this probe can only fly for up to 4.5 hours.

According to project coordinator Michael Amprikidis of GGD Engineering in Scotland, which is overseeing the testing, the plane is now in the final stages of testing, and there has already been government interest in Cyprus for rescue and forest-fire surveillance.