Drones are a new and powerful tool for environmental monitoring. They can fly over remote areas and collect data that would be impossible to get from the ground. This data is helping scientists and policymakers to make better decisions about how to protect our planet.
For example, drones are being used to track the spread of deforestation in the Amazon rainforest. This data is helping to raise awareness about the issue and to pressure governments to take action. Drones are also being used to monitor pollution levels in cities. This data is helping to identify areas where pollution is a problem and to develop strategies for reducing it.
Drones are a game-changer for environmental monitoring. They are helping us to see the big picture and to take action to protect our planet.
Soaring Seeds of Sustainability: Empa Researchers Develop Amazing Bio-Gliders for Advanced Environmental Monitoring
Following in the footsteps of famous explorers like Alexander von Humboldt, Charles Darwin, and Ernest Shackleton, today’s environmental pioneers are making way for a groundbreaking invention: the bio-glider. Created by the talented Empa researchers at the Sustainability Robotics laboratory in Dübendorf, these low-cost, eco-friendly flying sensors are designed to independently gather real-time environmental data, even in hard-to-reach areas. Taking inspiration from the Java cucumber’s unique seed dispersal, these bio-gliders are made using earth-friendly materials like potato starch and wood waste.
Fabian Wiesemüller and Mirko Kovac’s team from the Sustainability Robotics lab have skillfully designed these biodegradable gliders to keep an eye on forest soil conditions and their biological and chemical balance. The smart sensors, hidden within the gliders, measure important factors like soil moisture and acidity. Once they finish their job, they break down and become one with the forest floor.
The researchers have cleverly added a classic litmus test to measure pH values using dyes that come from lichen, which change color when they come into contact with acidic conditions. This color change is then spotted by a drone flying above, making data collection smooth and keeping human involvement to a minimum.
To make sure the sensor stays safe until it’s needed, Empa researchers have come up with a smart protective film that opens like a blooming flower when it senses rain or humidity. Gustav Nyström’s team from Empa’s Cellulose & Wood Materials laboratory worked together to create this moisture-sensitive polymer film using tiny cellulose fibers from wood residues and gelatin.
The environment-friendly bio-gliders are made from everyday potato starch, making them lightweight and easy to shape like the Java cucumber seed. Weighing only 1.5 grams with a 14-centimeter wingspan, these light-as-a-feather gliders are designed for long descent times and great flight behavior.
In drone flight arenas at Empa in Dübendorf and Imperial College London, the bio-gliders achieved a glide ratio of 6, allowing them to travel 60 meters horizontally when launched from a height of 10 meters.
Once the super-light bio-glider lands, it starts to break down quickly. The wings decompose within seven days, and the sensor falls apart after three weeks, leaving no trace behind.
Empa researchers are now working on developing completely biodegradable sensor drones to monitor the effects of climate change on different habitats. Their ultimate goal is to create “digital ecology” solutions that provide accurate predictions about the environment and help with proper preventative measures while leaving the smallest ecological footprint possible.
Inspired by the unmatched efficiency of nature, these bio-gliders show how humans can learn from the natural world and use its power for sustainable environmental monitoring and conservation. With their incredible performance and minimal impact on the environment, Empa’s bio-gliders are undoubtedly ushering in a new age of eco-friendly innovation.
- Empa researchers have created bio-gliders, flying sensors that can gather important environmental information in hard-to-reach areas while being eco-friendly and low-cost.
- The design of these bio-gliders is inspired by the Java cucumber’s seed dispersal, allowing them to sail through the air and cover long distances.
- The materials used in making the bio-gliders, such as potato starch and wood waste, are earth-friendly and biodegradable, reducing their impact on the environment.
- Fabian Wiesemüller, Mirko Kovac, and their team designed the bio-gliders to monitor the health of forest soil, checking its biological and chemical balance.
- The sensors inside the gliders use a classic litmus test to measure pH levels, with lichen-derived dyes that change color based on acidity levels. Drones then spot this color change from the air.
- To protect the sensors until they’re needed, researchers developed a moisture-sensitive protective film. Gustav Nyström’s team used tiny cellulose fibers from wood residues and gelatin to create this clever film.
- The bio-gliders are lightweight, made from potato starch, and weigh just 1.5 grams with a 14-centimeter wingspan. They’re designed for long descent times and great flight behavior.
- In drone flight arenas at Empa in Dübendorf and Imperial College London, the bio-gliders achieved a glide ratio of 6, meaning they can travel 60 meters horizontally when launched from a height of 10 meters.
- Once the bio-gliders land, they break down quickly. The wings decompose within seven days, and the sensor falls apart after three weeks, leaving no trace behind.
- Empa researchers are now working on developing fully biodegradable sensor drones to monitor the effects of climate change on different habitats. Their ultimate goal is to create “digital ecology” solutions that provide accurate environmental predictions and help with proper preventative measures while leaving a minimal ecological footprint.
Once Upon A Time . . .
In the year 2150, Earth had undergone tremendous transformations. Climate change had left its mark, and humans had finally realized the importance of taking care of the planet. Empa’s bio-gliders, those miraculous flying sensors, had played a crucial role in revolutionizing the way people monitored the environment.
These bio-gliders, born from potato starch and wood waste, had evolved into extraordinary devices, now capable of collecting a wide range of environmental data. They monitored air and water quality, soil health, and even detected early signs of natural disasters. Their advanced sensors communicated with a global network, providing real-time information to governments and organizations, empowering them to make informed decisions and take appropriate actions.
As the bio-gliders gracefully soared through the sky, they resembled a flock of ethereal creatures, almost as if they were part of nature themselves. People called them the “Guardians of the Earth,” a fitting name for these eco-friendly wonders that had become essential tools in the fight against climate change.
The Guardians were now equipped with an AI-driven ecosystem that could predict future environmental changes with astonishing accuracy. This had allowed humanity to implement preemptive measures, saving countless lives and protecting many endangered species from extinction.
These biodegradable drones had become part of a global effort to heal the Earth. Vast forests had been replanted, and once-depleted rivers now flowed with vitality. The Guardians monitored the progress of these efforts, ensuring that the ecosystems thrived and remained in harmony.
As years passed, the bio-gliders evolved further. They had gained the ability to repair themselves by extracting nutrients from the environment, ensuring they were always in optimal condition. Their advanced sensors could now detect even the tiniest changes in the environment, allowing humans to address issues before they escalated.
Thanks to the Guardians, people became more connected with nature. Children grew up learning about the importance of preserving the environment, and the world saw a dramatic shift in attitudes towards sustainable living.
However, there were challenges ahead. In a remote corner of the world, a new threat was looming. A mysterious fungal infection was spreading rapidly through the forests, threatening to wipe out entire ecosystems.
The Guardians swiftly descended upon the infected areas, gathering invaluable data about the fungus. Researchers analyzed the information and developed a targeted biological agent to combat the outbreak. In a race against time, the bio-gliders were equipped with this new agent, and they set out to save the forests.
As they soared above the treetops, the Guardians released the agent, which quickly neutralized the fungus. Slowly but surely, the forests started to heal, and once again, the world had the bio-gliders to thank.
The story of the Guardians had become a testament to the power of innovation and human ingenuity. They had shown that by working together and learning from nature, humans could overcome the most daunting challenges, ensuring a bright and sustainable future for generations to come.
Discovery Origin: Delicate, diligent, transient
More from: Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology
Disclaimer: Please be aware that the information presented in this story should be taken with caution, as AI has occasionally been known to provide inaccurate or misleading information. It is highly recommended that you verify the facts before relying on them. This content is primarily intended to inspire and spark ideas!