L Vr NI\'[, rP.S F LO'RI Featured Scholar
Undergraduate Daniel Grant
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2005 - 2006 University Scholar
University Scholars Program Mentor: Rick Lind
Undergraduate Research College of Engineering
ResourceDaniel Grant has his head in the clouds, and for good reason. As an aerospace engineer
Search: Daniel works in flight controls and dynamics. He is interested in one day discovering the
secret to getting miniature air vehicles, MAVs, to fly autonomously.
Enter Search Terms "Miniature air vehicles are resources whose characteristics, such as size and speed,
enable a range of mission profiles," Daniel said. "These vehicles are ideally suited to
operate within urban environments at altitudes that are inaccessible to larger aircraft due
to dense obstacles. Tasks including surveillance and tracking will be greatly facilitated by
vehicles that can fly at treetop level and into buildings."
Daniel came up with the idea for his USP project when he was a junior. Another student
in his lab was doing a similar project that piqued his interest. Daniel approached his
professor, Richard Lind, because he wanted to do a project to graduate with honors and
the Air Force was actually looking into funding a project about Daniel's proposed
research, so it would be the best of both worlds to research MAVs. His work was
supported jointly by the Air Force Research Laboratory and the Air Force Office of
Daniel's research has shown that agility is increasingly required for these vehicles as the
mission tasks consider the right conditions associated with urban environments. The
close spacing of obstacles will require a vehicle that can turn sharply in a small radius but
yet loiter and cruise. The winds around these obstacles significantly vary in direction.
Morphing, which changes the shape and configuration of an aircraft, is being incorporated
to enable multi-role capabilities of a single vehicle.
Biologically-inspired approaches for morphing are quite appropriate for miniature air
vehicles, given their similarity to birds in size and airspeed. Daniel used the seagull as a
model for how to adapt his MAVs to various flying conditions and obstacles. "The seagull
is a logical choice from which to derive biological inspiration since it is so adept at agilely
flying in windy conditions. Such birds are routinely seen tracking boats, diving to catch
prey, and landing on buoys despite heavy winds and strong gusts from different
directions," Daniel said. "The missions envisioned for a miniature air vehicle require a
similar set of abilities."
The project entailed a lot of experimental work and then computational work. But it was
fun because Daniel got to design mini airplanes and then test them. "It was devastating
when they crashed because then it would be back to the drawing board," Daniel said.
Each airplane was one of a kind, so he would have to completely rebuild them if they
The end goal of his research is to get MAVs to fly in a city autonomously. That goal is
many years off, but Daniel has found other benefits in terms of his own education and
career path. "The benefits of this project have been the ability to see the aspect of what
a real job in the industry would entail. As a student you often don't get hands on
experience, and being thrust into doing your own project really shows you what the field
is really like," Daniel said. "It helped me decide that I wanted to go back and pursue
graduate school once I got my degree."
Daniel graduated in December and is working on his Ph.D. here at UF. His main area of
study is morphing wing MAVs. In the future, he plans to work in government research
labs and maybe even land a job at NASA. His USP research paper won the Best Student
Paper at the 2006 American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Atmospheric Flight
-By Heather Read
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