MIT to the Rescue with the New Jungle Hawk Owl Drone

June 29, 2017 - 2 minutes read

It should be no surprise that MIT — you know, that school that’s basically synonymous with innovation — is doing amazing work with drones. Boston IoT app developers may already be aware of the autonomous, AI-assisted camera drones being tested by researchers at the school’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. Now the brilliant engineers at MIT’s Beaver Works lab are testing a drone nicknamed Jungle Hawk Owl that could be a lifesaver in the aftermath of a disaster.

The drone was commissioned by the U.S. Air Force, who was looking for solar-powered unmanned aerial vehicle to beam communications to areas in crisis. MIT’s engineers ditched the solar component of the challenge when it was determined that it was impractical. What they cooked up instead was a relatively lightweight, gas-powered drone with a 24-foot wingspan that can stay aloft for 5 days with a full tank of gas. But IoT app developers worried about energy efficiency shouldn’t worry: according to one of the project’s leaders, Professor Warren Hoburg, “We spent more fuel getting to the launch site than flying the airplane for three days.”

Facebook and San Francisco-based startup Everfly have been working on something similar with their Tether-tenna project, a 14-foot drone that attaches to a power line in order to broadcast internet to disaster zones. But so far the Tether-tenna drone only stays in the air for 24 hours at a time. MIT’s drone may be the superior UAV for providing support in a disaster. The Jungle Hawk Owl, which is made of Kevlar and carbon fiber and weighs 55 pounds without gas or a payload, can be broken down for easy shipping to areas in need. It could also potentially be used to bring broadband to isolated rural communities that do not have access to high-speed internet. For IoT app developers interested in positive and practical applications for drones, this sort of project is an inspiration.

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