Feature

This glider can stay in the air indefinitely by acting like a bird

The latest Microsoft project: a self-piloted aircraft.

Microsoft is copying the soaring skills of hawks and eagles to build a glider that can stay in the air indefinitely, said Andrew Liszewski at Gizmodo. The self-piloted aircraft uses artificial intelligence to spot thermals, the rising columns of warm air that birds of prey use to stay aloft "for extended periods with minimal effort." The experimental craft — a model sailplane with a 16.5-foot wingspan — gathers data like air temperature and wind direction, to find the air columns and predict where the next one will be, keeping itself airborne without a motor.

Courtesy Microsoft

The sailplane does use a battery-powered motor to take off and steer, but eventually, solar cells on its wings "could provide all the power it needs." AI-piloted gliders that don't need to land could be used for scientific research or providing internet and cellular service in disaster zones.

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