U.S. Navy wants to deploy CICADA drones to better understand storm systems

cicada drone hurricane research
Jonathan Sunderman/U.S. Naval Research Laboratory
We’ve reviewed plenty of drones over the years, and while they are predominantly used recreationally, the tiny buzzing gadgets have plenty of real world functionality. We reported earlier this year about a series of defibrillator drones undergoing testing in Sweden to reduce death and it looks like some drones in the U.S. may be gearing up for meteorological duty. The U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) is testing a fleet of hurricane research drones to better understand and predict the destructive forces of nature.

The Close-in Covert Autonomous Disposable Aircraft MK5, or CICADAs, are an inexpensive, autonomous, fleet of GPS-controlled drones. Unlike traditional aerial drones, the CICADAs have no motor or onboard propulsion system. Instead, the 1.2-ounce drones are released midair from an aircraft and then glide to their intended destination. Each CICADA has a “glide ratio” of about 3.5 to 1 — meaning the drone has the ability to glide forward 3.5 feet for every one foot it descends.

The latest CICADA prototype has flat wings and an overall flat build, enabling the “micro aircraft” to be easily stacked in canisters and deployed in large numbers. The Navy is currently using a delivery system that stacks 32 CICADAs into a single cylindrical container for deployment.

Once released from the aircraft, the drones glide to their “intended waypoint, enters an orbit, and then descends within that orbit until it reaches the ground,” according to Dr. Daniel J. Edwards, an aerospace engineer with NRL. The onboard GPS technology allows the CICADAs to navigate and land within roughly 15 feet of their intended target.

The NRL describes the CICADAs as “essentially a flying circuit board” and once deployed in the air, the drones will record chemical, biological, and meteorological information. The Navy hopes this data could be used to better understand the behavior of both hurricanes and tornadoes.

In the future, these research drones could be deployed from a host of aerial vehicles including traditional airplanes, balloons, precision guided munitions, and even other unmanned aircraft or drones. The Navy recently ran the drones through a series of tests in various locations and altitudes ranging up to 8,000 feet. You can watch the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Spectrum’s full video coverage of the event on YouTube.

Emerging Tech

Researchers create a flying wireless platform using bumblebees

Researchers at the University of Washington have come up with a novel way to create a wireless platform: using bumblebees. As mechanical drones' batteries run out too fast, the team made use of a biology-based solution using living insects.
Computing

Nvidia’s Jetson AGX Xavier module is designed to give robots better brains

Nvidia's pricey Jetson AGX Xavier might help drive the next generation of smart robots. Nvidia hopes that developers will use its new Xavier module to power AI-driven machines like delivery drones and robots used in manufacturing.
Deals

Take to the skies with these 5 drones on sale for under $50

On the hunt for some cool tech for under $50? We've rounded up 5 drones under $50 that you can still get before Christmas. These models are great for kids, adults, and anyone just getting started with drones.
Emerging Tech

Intel wants its fleet of drones to monitor America’s aging, unsafe bridges

Intel has signed a deal to use its Falcon 8+ drones to carry out bridge inspections. The hope is that these drones will be useful in spotting potential problems before they become serious.
Emerging Tech

Thrill-seekers will be able to pilot themselves in a giant drone as soon as 2019

Want to hitch a ride on a giant drone? The startup Lift Aircraft is gearing up to let paying customers fly its 18-rotor giant drones over assorted scenic landscapes across the U.S.
Emerging Tech

CRISPR gene therapy regulates hunger, staves off severe obesity in mice

Researchers from UC San Francisco have demonstrated how CRISPR gene editing can be used to prevent severe obesity in mice, without making a single edit to the mouse's genome. Here's how.
Emerging Tech

Rise of the Machines: Here’s how much robots and A.I. progressed in 2018

2018 has generated no shortage of news, and the worlds of A.I. and robotics are no exception. Here are our picks for the most exciting, game changing examples of both we saw this year.
Emerging Tech

Capture app saves money by 3D scanning objects using iPhone’s TrueDepth camera

Capture is a new iPhone app created by the Y Combinator-backed startup Standard Cyborg. It allows anyone to perform 3D scans of objects and share them with buddies. Here's how it works.
Emerging Tech

Sick of walking everywhere? Here are the best electric skateboards you can buy

Thanks for Kickstarter and Indiegogo, electric skateboards are carving a bigger niche than you might think. Whether you're into speed, mileage, or something a bit more stylish, here are the best electric skateboards on the market.
Emerging Tech

Parker Solar Probe captures first image from within the atmosphere of the sun

NASA has shared the first image from inside the atmosphere of the sun taken by the Parker Solar Probe. The probe made the closest ever approach to a star, gathering data which scientists have been interpreting and released this week.
Emerging Tech

Say cheese: InSight lander posts a selfie from the surface of Mars

NASA's InSight mission to Mars has commemorated its arrival by posting a selfie. The selfie is a composite of 11 different images which were taken by one of its instruments, the Instrument Deployment Camera.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Booze-filled ski poles and crypto piggy banks

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Emerging Tech

Bright ‘hyperactive’ comet should be visible in the sky this weekend

An unusual green comet, 46P/Wirtanen, will be visible in the night sky this month as it makes its closest approach to Earth in 20 years. It may even be possible to see the comet without a telescope.
Emerging Tech

Gorgeous images show storms and cloud formations in the atmosphere of Jupiter

NASA's Juno mission arrived at Jupiter in 2016 and has been collecting data since then. NASA has shared an update on the progress of the mission as it reaches its halfway point, releasing stunning images of the planet as seen from orbit.