Microsoft’s autonomous gliders seek out thermal updrafts to stay aloft

Microsoft wants to build autonomous tech for aircraft that require little to no power to fly. It just completed tests in the Nevada desert of gliders equipped with self-guidance systems that help them track regions of rising hot air and predict their movement, with the aim of staying up in the air for as long as possible.

These tests showed that Microsoft’s system for riding the wind holds a lot of promise; the New York Times reports that the test vehicles worked, proving out the predictive math that researchers developed to help the drones make educated guesses about where thermals would appear in future. They fell a bit short of their ultimate aim, however, which was to break the record for time spent in air during one flight by a ‘sailplane,’ another name for a glider…

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