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Since the USA started using their "drones" to strike at strategic targets in Afghanistan, the term "UAV" has become a very hot one in the media.
UAV is usually an acronym for Unmanned Aerial Vehicle and refers to a remotely piloted or autonomous aircraft of any size.
Once the regulators get their act sorted, chances are that many of the work presently performed by manned craft will eventually be handed over to these pilotless ones, for reasons of safety and cost-efficiency.
When the Police doing their annual aerial search for cannabis crops around the region they roll up in a little Cessna and actually wear body-armour for the flight -- apparently it's just in case "the bad guys" take pot-shots at them. This would seem to be an ideal task for an unmanned craft and I have had a couple of policemen visit to get an idea of what this technology can do. They were most impressed.
However, I'm thinking of a different type of UAV, as an interesting exercise in applying modern technology.
Since a DIY Cruise Missile seems a little risky (in the current environment of paranoia), what about a "cruise torpedo"? An unmanned aquatic vehicle?
Someone suggested this idea to me a long time ago but they seem to have done nothing with it -- so I'm wondering if I might give it a go myself.
What I'm thinking about is a small autonomous aquatic craft (that's a boat) which is solar/wind powered and has an onboard autopilot plus a GPS tracker.
Imagine how cool it would be to launch this at a suitable harbour or beach and have it embark on a journey measured in months (or longer) that would take it on a pre-programmed course around the globe.
By using "off the shelf" technology, its movements could be tracked almost in realtime, as it wended its way around the oceans of the world.
Being solar/wind powered, it could (in theory) continue on its journey for a very long time -- until some critical system failed or it was recovered.
How cool would that be?
I dare say that a clever entrepreneur could even leverage such a voyage for profit.
A bit of sponsorship, naming rights, maybe a subscription that gives you access to regular webcam pictures and more accurate position updates via the internet?
But the really cool thing would be to create a technology challenge based on this concept.
Maybe we could get highschools, universities and polytechs interested and see who can (initially) build the first UAV to circumnavigate NZ?
First NZ -- then the world!
Who's a starter for that?
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