Facebook PixelFully autonomous drones for mapping out the 56% of the earth's surface that hasn't been mapped yet
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Fully autonomous drones for mapping out the 56% of the earth's surface that hasn't been mapped yet

Image credit: Photo by ARTHUR HOW WONG: https://www.pexels.com/photo/turtle-under-water-with-seaweeds-5689082/

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Contrived _voice
Contrived _voice Mar 25, 2022
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Idea
A fleet of drones controlled by an independent neural network that uses a Lidar system to map out new regions and move it's solar charging system further and further out using the data collected to take pictures of new locations to add them to a growing database to contribute to a complete 3d model of the world like google street view.
Why
  1. Google maps has made it their mission to map out every last square meter of this planet, and the program would make the process more efficient.
  2. The system works on both solid ground and has potential for undersea application
  3. Could be cheaper and safer. Hiring trekkers to traverse mountains has an element of risk, and there are limits to how far one can go under the sea.
  4. Could serve as a template for exploration drones to asteroids and other planets.
How it works
The air drone hive mind
The idea is to give a neural network capable of reiforced learning the tools to map out and follow paths without human intervention. The solar charging system is on an autonomous truck that uses it's knowledge of known paths to park itself further into newly discovered paths so that the drones can always return to it for charging while forging ahead.
The truck is electric with a 4 wheel drive transmission, It can't really tavel far but that is not the goal. It only needs to move far enough to meet back up with the drones on their return flight for recharge. Since the system is fully autonomous it only needs to be checked up on once the entire region
The drones can be grouped into two, the first are the scouts with lidar imaging capabilities . They go first and map out the topography. The neural network calculates the best lacation and sends it's cartography drones. These drones work together to take enough pictures in the correct angle to be stitched to create a perfect 3d image in the highest resolution.
The portugeese man of war aquatic drone system
The design is based off the Portuguese man of war. The main body is submersible with an array of solar panels thet can be spread out on top to maximise exposure to the sun. Beneath it is a network of mapping drones with low light cameras and a lidar mapping system.
*forgive the rough sketch*
The mapping drones are connected via thin strong low resistance cables so they don't need to consume energy climbing up to the surface to recharge. They use a system of small turbines and the sea currents to move from one region to another. They conserve energy only activating to take pictures once the Lidar mapping drones have the floor mapped and they have been positioned at the most optimum position for taking the pictures.
The tethers are also the communication lines since this is the most effecient way. some drones will have a radar system so that the neural network can keep track of these tethers and move the drones around and adjust tension to avoid obstacles . This is critical to also prevent them from tangling together at the avarage depth of the ocean is around 3,700 metres
The tethers can be pulled up into the main body when currents are too strong and storms rage. The body can also suck in water to submerge itself to avoid violent waves on the surface after folding in the extendable solar panels.
Left on it's own it could map out alot of the ocean floor over time without anyone exhausting energy on it. For great depths, an endoscopic tether could be let down as it can endure greater pressures.

[1]https://geoslam.com/what-is-lidar/#:~:text=What%20is%20LiDAR%20mapping%3F,point%20cloud%2C%20to%20be%20georeferenced.

[2]https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/oceandepth.html#:~:text=The%20average%20depth%20of%20the,U.S.%20territorial%20island%20of%20Guam.

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Creative contributions

The problem of depth

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J. Nikola
J. Nikola Mar 31, 2022
Hi! Nice idea and a cool add-on with the aquatic drone system. I would just say that you maybe don't need the wiring system between the small underwater "drones" and the charging station. You just need a good signal receiver that can locate the "mothership" (e.g. by sonar or other GPS devices). Once the location is known, "drones" can come back and recharge before they go on another adventure.
The problem and solution
The depth could be a bigger problem. The deepest point is over 11 km! Therefore I suggest that a floating "mothership" has an anchor that can send or receive signals. If the depth is too big for any drone to safely scan the bottom and come back, a signal anchor would go deeper so that the "drones" can go deeper, too. That way "drones" can retain their small dimensions (with motor, sonar, and cameras) while the floating "mothership" can be bulky, full of batteries, cable for the anchor, signal transmitters, and solar panels.
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Contrived _voice
Contrived _voice2 months ago
yeah, I thought about that too, thats why I decided on the jellyfish design, the 'tentacles' are the anchor cables for signal transmission. It also explains why free moving mini-drones aren't a viable solution; tethers conserve energy and also make signal transmission easier.
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Contrived _voice
Contrived _voice2 months ago
Shubhankar Kulkarni I saw a documentary on how they were using LIdar to unearth Mayan buildings hidden under the forest using lidar, I thought a similar system could be applied here

[1]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IAzS59FqKjc

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J. Nikola
J. Nikola2 months ago
Contrived _voice yes, but with cables connected to mini drones you have two problems which you mentioned - cables can twist around each other, making the whole system break down, and additional weight of the cables can exhaust the batteries of the drones and limit their free movement.
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