2008 Joint Meeting of The Geological Society of America, Soil Science Society of America, American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, Gulf Coast Association of Geological Societies with the Gulf Coast Section of SEPM

Paper No. 12
Presentation Time: 4:15 PM

Pterodactyl-Inspired Unmanned Aerial Vehicle with Multimodal Locomotion

CHATTERJEE, Sankar, Geosciences, Texas Tech Univ, MS Box 41053, Lubbock, TX 79409-3191, LIND, Richard, Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering, 231 Aerospace Building, Gainesville, FL 32611, GEDEON, Andy, Museum, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, TX 79409 and ROBERTS, Brian, Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611, sankar.chatterjee@ttu.edu

Bio-inspiration has led surprisingly to a wide variety of robotic design, especially small Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV), taken cues from birds, bats, and insects. Tapejara wellnhoferi, a pterodactyloid from the Early Cretaceous of Brazil, shows promise as a biomimetic model to develop an UAV of much superior range, a sensor platform capable of aerial, terrestrial, and aquatic locomotion. Tapejara was a sophisticated flyer capable of steady level flight with a cruising speed of 30 km/hr. Both membranous cranial sail and wings acted as large sensory organs during flight. The vertical cranial sail was richly supplied with nerve endings and blood vessels that acted as a mechanoreceptor to sense temperature, pressure, and wind direction. It would transmit aerodynamic information to the vestibular apparatus in the inner ear, a tiny gyroscope, which would instruct the wings for flight control and stability. The cranial sail was positioned at the nose to enhance the aerial turn, a novel adaptation never used in aircraft design. On land, Tapejara first walked quadrupedally and then ran bipedally to reach the takeoff speed. In aquatic environment, Tapejara achieved the configuration of a three-masted sailboat for cruising slowly during foraging. The cranial sail served as a front rudder to steer. Two upright triangular wings, partly folded and oriented transverse to the body axis and anchored at the wrist joint, functioned as a pair of mainsails to catch the wind and supply the thrust while skimming. With a wide range of multimodal locomotion, Tapejara has a strong application to prototype a small functional air-ground-sea robotic (Pterodrone) with a wingspan of 80 cm that will provide autonomous surveillance across a variety of operation areas. Some novel pterodactyl-inspired designs include a vertical tail at the nose of the aircraft to reduce turn radius, and morphing limbs for multimodal locomotion.