The project "Dandidrone: A Dandelion-Inspired Drone for Swarm Sensing" aims to investigate the unsteady aerodynamics of centimetre-scale wings to underpin the development of flying sensors that remain airborne, transported by the wind. In the next decade, distributed sensor network systems made of small flying sensors, from dust-scale to insect-scale, will enable a step-change in monitoring natural disasters and remote areas. They will contribute to protecting the environment by providing data on the contamination of physical and biological systems and on the impact of human activities.
To date, a key limitation of this technology is that small sensors can remain airborne for only a few tens of minutes. By contrast, some natural flyers, such as the dandelion fruit, travel unpowered for days and hundreds of kilometres. Recent work, led by Dr Nakayama and Dr Viola and published in Nature (https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-018-0604-2), reveals that the dandelion adopts a highly porous wing to form a new fluid vortex that has never been observed before; the separated vortex ring. The project aims to unveil the underlying fluid mechanics mechanisms that allow the dandelion to remain airborne by exploiting the energy in the wind.
This project, which started in August 2021, currently includes Prof. Ignazio Maria Viola, Dr Chandan Bose, Doudou Huang, Bappa Mitra, Panagiotis Alexandrou, Dr Francesco Giorgio-Serchi, Dr Antonio Attili, Doug Halley, and Prof. Marc Desmulliez at Heriot-Watt University). Within the five-year duration of the project, the team will recruit two further Research Associates and a PhD student. Open positions will be advertised on https://voilab.eng.ed.ac.uk.