This is so cool! There are pictures and audio of Michael and his Autonomous Soaring project on this site:
Michael describes his project:
"The Autonomous Soaring Project has one simple goal,
to program a small UAV to soar in thermals
similar to the way a glider pilot or birds do.
The aircraft has an off-the-shelf autopilot.
It has been reprogrammed
for this project to automatically
dectect that it is in an updraft and
then use that updraft by circling.
During the 17 flights of this project
we used a total of 23 updrafts and
we had an average climb of about 500 feet.
In a single updraft we climbed 2700 feet, a little bit more.
There's a wide variety of applications
for this technology, to help UAVs do things
like forest fire detection, police surveillance,
border patrol and weather monitoring.
The technology may even extend to
planetary fliers, such as, the Mars Aircraft."
I have such a cool brother!