Saturday, 26 January 2008

The Future of High Speed Marine Vehicles?

(Seabus-Hydaer new concept in maritime transport)

Several new high speed marine vehicle configurations have been developed during the last two decades, due to an increasing demand for such vehicles for civil and military marine transportation: planing craft, catamarans, Small Waterplane Area Twin Hull (SWATH), Wave-Piercing Catamarans, Trimarans, Quadrimarans, Hydrofoil craft, Air Cushion Vehicles (ACVs), Surface Effect Ships (SES), Wing in Ground effect vehicles (WIGs). Also hybrid concept do exist: Hydrofoil Small Waterplane Area Ship(HYSWAS), Hydrofoil Catamaran (HYCAT), Hydrofoil-Supported Catamaran (HYSUCAT). These are, generally, capable of carrying more payload both farther and faster.

For ”very high speed vehicles” (>50 kt), the aerodynamic forces can become of the same order of magnitude compared to hydrodynamic forces, especially for small vehicles (<10 tons). Although this can lead to stability issues in some cases, this can offer a new range of possibilities to sustain the weight of the craft. The high speed marine vehicles can be equipped with specifically designed aerodynamic surfaces and the aerodynamic lift can ”alleviate” the weight of the vehicle. This means less wet length, less hydrodynamic drag and less required power.

This is what I'm doing in my PhD: studying the dynamics of a vehicle with a novel configuration, hybrid between a Wing In Ground effect vehicles and a high speed marine craft. If someone is interested in the subject I would be more than happy to start a collaboration.

References

Meyer, J. R.; Clark, D. J. & Ellsworth, W. M., The Quest for Speed at Sea, Carderock Division, NSWC, 2004

Rozhdestvensky, K. V. , Wing-in-ground effect vehicles, Progress in Aerospace Sciences, 2006, 1, 211-283

Friday, 25 January 2008

Nowadays Robots


I just attended a seminar at my university on "Software Development for Ground Robotics", by Stephen Bridges, a systems engineer at QinetiQ.

What I wrote some days ago seems to be right: the robotics era is coming.
The US Department of Defense has already planned which requirements, in the military field, the robots will fulfill from now to 2032!

Second things, Stephen explained that the safety fault measures of the robots designed nowadays are very strict. So strict that you cannot use advanced programming (no object oriented languages, neither dynamic allocation or whatever slightly advanced, and so on) in these robots. First of all, they have to work safely. Second of all, they have to work safely. Third: you know it.

An example: one of the most produced robot for the US army is basically a radio controlled robotic arm over two caterpillars, about 1 meter long, like the one in the image.Not even a trace of artificial intelligence or automation. Why? Because it works and it is safe.

But this is the dawn of robotics, so I think it is normal that these robots can seem "naive". You can think about the "Flyer" of the Wright brothers: is not it naive with respect to a modern Boeing 777 or even compared to a second world war aircraft, like the Spitfire?

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

LEGO Mindstorms fever!

I would like to talk about Lego Mindstorms.

I had to fight with relatives to persuade them that the LEGO Mindstorms are not toys for childs, and that the medium age of the people that buy this article is 27 y.o.
In the meantime I was persuading also myself, because to start again playing with LEGO at almost 29 y.o. is not so typical.

Some months ago I read on Scientific American an article (read here) where Bill Gates asserted how, when he was at the start of the Microsoft adventure, the personal computer was starting to change the life of everyone and he recognizes it as a revolution. He said also that the next revolution is robotics. In some decades we will see the robots change our life in every aspect.

I think that this is the point. I truly believe that the next decades will be extremely changed by robotics, so why do not get involved in it?

The first approach to robotics was a kit from DLR, the ASURO. I am not very able with soldering, so I obtained a little robot not working properly. I was not able to program it and I abandoned soon the little robot adventure.

Now I think I found the solution to my problems: the LEGO Mindstorms kit. I do not need to solder anything, and there are tons of books, newsgroup, newsletter, and so on talking about this branch of LEGO. I just bought "Building Robots with LEGO Mindstorms NXT" and, in my mind, I am already designing robotic arms, robotic animals, robotic vacuum cleaner, and so on. I hope this time I will get deeply involved with robotics... we will see.

In the meantime, for the Mindstorms maniacs, I do recommend the cited book.

Thursday, 17 January 2008

A PhD in my opinion

What is a PhD?
Now it has been almost 2 and half year that I'm doing a PhD, maybe I can say one thing or two about it.

In one phrase, a PhD is passion for research.

You have to love to investigate things that no one has investigated before: this is exciting, but also very difficult. No one can really help you, because the expert in this new field is YOU!

You have to dig thoroughly into literally hundreds and hundreds of articles, reports, books and so on...you feel lost most of the time. And when you found an interesting article, sometimes it is written in Japanese, or you can read only the abstract, or you can almost have it but you cannot. At the very least, when you obtain that "holy grail" article, you realize that your mini-library of references grows exponentially but your knowledge does not. Apparently.

People admire you, but the people that can understand your work do not want listen to, and people that want to listen to cannot understand. Many times you would give up and you ask yourself:" Why I'm not doing a work?"

In some case, like my case, you have to live abroad, to learn to cook, wash, clean, wipe, ... you become a homemaker-researcher!

All this seems an insurmountable amount of problems, but I'm very happy.
I'm happy because the passion for research helps you ride over all the difficulties.

And when you bring your article, that little piece of your work, written by you, hard-fought, hard-won, to a conference, you will show it like it would be your own child. You will be so proud of it that you forgot every difficulty.

A PhD is to go where no one has gone before.

Monday, 14 January 2008

First message

Hello world!
This is my first post, and I give you a little description of myself.

I'm italian aerospace engineer and I'm in UK to do a PhD at Cranfield University.

I really do love Sci-Fi (books, movies, whatever) and Fantasy, but I love also ancient hystory (especially the Roman Empire).

Let's start now!