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Dissipation of fog via an autonomous fleet of drones

Darko Savic
Darko Savic Jan 12, 2021
This project is envisioned to save people that live in fog-prone areas from not seeing sunlight for weeks on end during the winter/fog season. The problem is further explained in this brainstorming session. By solving it, we reduce the area’s pollution, winter heating cost, and increase the general wellbeing of people living there.

The idea is to build a fleet of large, autonomous drones that fly in synchronized formation. They would be stacked one above the other and used as a large drill to blow holes in the thick layer of fog. Once the initial hole is established it would be expanded in all directions by moving the entire fleet sideways. This would let sunshine reach the ground below and start heating it up. The heat would eventually dissipate the remaining layer of fog. If for example the drones are positioned 5 meters above one another, it would take a fleet of 41 to penetrate a 200-meter thick layer of fog.

Suitable drones already exist and are generally used for agricultural spraying or carrying cargo. The internet is full of drone-building communities and youtube tutorials. The building components are readily available. Suitable drones can be built for a few thousand bucks per unit.

The fleet would be used in optimal conditions when there is low wind and the sky is clear above the layer of fog. The electronic components would need to be watertight. This is actually the norm for agricultural spraying drones. The drones would need to be equipped with sonar and centimeter-resolution RTK GPS modules so that they don’t bump into each other in the thick fog.

The drones would autonomously recharge their batteries in one of two ways. Either by landing on an induction charging pad or something like this. When the entire fleet is recharged, it would resume operations as long as the conditions remain favorable.

Ultimately, a scout drone would analyze the layer of fog, then the entire swarm would deal with it autonomously, based on the most suitable strategy for the particular situation (size, density, temperature, wind, etc).

As I write this I’m building a large prototype that will be used as proof of concept. To take this idea further I will need to find and partner with people that are skilled in programming autonomous swarms and share a passion for such a project.

This idea has the potential to develop into a startup that supplies swarms of autonomous fog dissipation drones to towns, cities, and counties that are battling with this problem.



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General comments

J.4 months ago
Would the efficiency be higher if you used warm air instead of the "wind" from drone propellers?
For example, could the same goal be done more efficiently by a drone/helicopter-carried hollow pipe that blows warm air on multiple latitudes and creates a vertical hole in the thick fog layer? The air could be warmed by the flow-through preheated metal structure of the pipe.
Also, if the fog layer is close to the ground, the same could be done by a vehicle-carried pipe fan. In that case, heating would not be a problem.
Darko Savic
Darko Savic4 months ago
Juran Warm air would do the trick even without propellers and it would work from the ground. However, warming it up would require extreme energy expenditure. This was mentioned in this brainstorming session https://brainstorming.com/r/s38. A fossil fuel nightmare https://youtu.be/gAIjxaJ2_Ag worked. If it was done with electricity it would be even less efficient since the electricity has to first be produced only to be converted back into heat again.

By starting from above (with drones) using the sun-warmed air, the electricity requirement/efficiency is minimized as much as possible
J.4 months ago
Darko Savic Okay. I understand that extreme energy is required to heat the air or metal. The possible solution could be to make the giant metal hollow pipe fan that would be heated using the solar-powered induction by photovoltaic panels placed on top of the hill (as mentioned in your "Uphill tunnels used as chimneys" contribution).

Also, if you use the aluminium structure to "connect" the drone fleet, it can be preheated using the same methods. Or even the drone wings could be preheated. Not sure how much would it contribute, but generally, the energy to fill the batteries of the whole drone fleet is also not so insignificant (I guess).
Povilas S
Povilas S4 months ago
As I understand from the idea description the drones would fly freely and would only form a "drill" by synchronizing their moves? Wouldn't it be easier/better to instead make a lightweight structure to physically attach the drones to? You are talking about the aluminum frame for the prototype. Is that it? Also, how do you know if the movement of the drone propellers will be enough to dissipate the fog?
Darko Savic
Darko Savic4 months ago
For the prototype I'm going to use:
- custom welded aluminium frame
- 6 Hobbywing X9 motors
- the motors come in combo with 120A ESCs (electronic speed controllers)
- 33.9x11 inch (84 cm diameter) propellers
- Pixhawk Cube Orange flight controller runnig ardupilot
- RTK GPS module

I'm still looking into the type of sensors (sonar, radar) to prevent the drones crashing into eachother in the thick fog. Also I'm still looking into the right batteries.