Flying Chinese robot leads survey of Qinghai-Tibet Plateau
Capable of flying at an altitude of 6,000 meters and conducting environmental monitoring, a Chinese self-developed flying robot is helping researchers learn more about the "roof of the world."
The robot named Yunque is capable of conducting high-altitude environmental research and was used to monitor glaciers and lakes during China's second comprehensive scientific expedition to the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau.
The Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, known for its high altitude, thin air and harsh weather, has posed a challenge for scientific surveys. For those extremely high altitude areas that are hard to reach for human investigators, a lack of data limits the capacity for comprehensive and in-depth scientific investigation.
Developed by researchers from the Shenyang Institute of Automation under the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the robot can conduct autonomous takeoff and landing, fly along a fixed route and avoid dynamic and static obstacles in extreme environments such as thin air and strong wind disturbance.
It can carry 5 kg of scientific research samples, resist strong winds up to force seven and fly at an altitude of 6,000 meters for nearly 30 minutes.
In glacier areas at an altitude of 6,000 meters, the robot conducted thermal infrared image monitoring of the ice temperature, surveyed and modeled the three-dimensional topography, and monitored the temperature, humidity and black carbon content of the high-altitude atmosphere.
In Lake Namtso, sitting 4,730 meters above sea level, the robot automatically collected deep water samples and conducted real-time monitoring of the lake water temperature.
This showed that the robot can cover all field research stations and most of the glacier areas on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau.
According to researchers from the Shenyang Institute of Automation, the scientific investigation to the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau involves collecting data on lakes and glaciers to analyze the environmental changes of the plateau and global climate change. These data used to be mainly collected by human investigators, who have to face a harsh environment and many dangerous situations.
The robot can work for extended periods over large areas at a low cost, offering a helping hand to human investigators and greatly increasing the efficiency of the investigations.
The research team will further improve the robot's ability to resist extremely harsh environments and develop other ground and underwater robots to support high-altitude scientific surveys.