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MIT’s autonomous drone is equal parts albatross and sailboat

The researchers built a prototype and did some testing back in 2016. The drone is an autonomous glider with a 3-meter wingspan, just like the famous bird it emulates, along with a tall triangular sail and slender keel. The team added various instruments like a GPS, inertial sensors, an auto-pilot system and ultrasound to track the glider’s height when flying. The hybrid vehicle is still in the conceptual phase, but Bousquet imagines fleets of these things operating autonomously and monitoring large swaths of ocean in the future. “Imagine you could fly like an albatross when it’s really windy, and then when there’s not enough wind, the keel allows you to sail like a sailboat,” Bousquet said in a statement. “This dramatically expands the kinds of regions where you can go.”

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