Although we produce some standard aircraft, it is often the case that a particular application needs something slightly different. There is often a need to find a machine that can operate within quite specific operational parameters, in unusual ways or very particular circumstances and, with the number of ways these aircraft might be used increasing constantly, this is far from uncommon. Currently at least half our work involves some kind of system customisation. This may be something as simple as specifying a particular set of components to optimise performance, but can often involve more. Making changes to an airframe to enable the use of different sensors, fit unusual antennas, attach non-standard payloads, integrate power systems for payloads, customise landing gear, or customised functionality are all becoming more common. In some cases an entirely bespoke aircraft specifically designed for the particular application may be the only solution.
With our long history of building unusual VTOL flying machines, and our ability to manufacture many parts either in house or through our carefully chosen manufacturing partners, we are able to work with our customers to produce bespoke or customised systems that most closely fulfil their specific requirements. Please feel free to get in touch if you would like to discuss your project, we are happy to sign an NDA if required and you may be surprised how inexpensive a custom solution could be.
BioCarbon Engineering Quad
This Quad aircraft has been built for UK company Bio Carbon Engineering to test a very interesting application. Their concept is to vastly improve reforestation rates by firing pre germinated seeds in biodegradable nutrition pods directly into the ground from the air. The aim is to plant 1 billion trees per year, replacing the slow and difficult manual planting methods currently in use.
The Quad is fitted with an air powered seed gun powerful enough to penetrate ground vegetation and surface soil, getting the seed directly into the ground…..and it works very well! This is a version 1 prototype and will clearly need to be scaled to achieve their targets. The project is ongoing. Flight time for this particlar machine is around 40 mins.
You can find out more here at www.biocarbonengineering.com
GPR (Ground Penetrating Radar)
As the name implies GPR is used to look for information about what is beneath the ground with applications ranging from archeology to mine detection. Normally GPR would be fitted to a small ground vehicle or even dragged across the ground by a human operator, however this approach is not always practical or in some cases even possible. GPR sensors rely on close proximity to the ground, so to undertake this from a UAV requires operation at very low level and at a very consistent altitude. A grid pattern using waypoints is generated and altitude is maintained using a very accurate laser altimeter and some clever terrain following algorithms.
Flying at this level means the aircraft must have very accurate control and also be highly resilient to wind as any deviation could easily result in a crash. This particular aircraft is extremely stable, produces minimal vibration, and can manage around a 30 minute flight with the GPR allowing for good coverage between battery changes. Altitude control is accurate to around 1 cm.
RF Spectrum Montioring
This Raven variant was designed to carry an extremely sensitive RF spectrum monitoring system. Traditionally such systems are bulky and heavy but Metis Aerospace developed a system light enough to be flown by one of our aircraft. With a payload as sensitive and high value as this, low vibration levels, excellent resilience in difficult conditions, ultimate reliability, quick deployment and ease of use are all key.
The system itself is designed to pop up anywhere at very short notice and monitor activity across the full range of RF frequencies. We cannot disclose exactly how wide a range or number of frequencies it can monitor simultaneously, but it is a very impressive piece of kit!
UAV Smart Winch
The UAV smart winch developed by us for delivery of light payloads to areas where landing is not possible (such as the top of wind turbines), or for placing of equipment or sensors in hard to reach or no access locations (with the addition of our remotely operated dropping hook – not shown here). The smart winch is integrated into one of our removable quick release landing gear systems for quick swapping of different payloads for different functions.
The winch is almost entirely automated as it must be able to operate well away from clear view of the pilot operator. A downward facing camera is fitted, and the winch is able to monitor it’s position at all times enabling the operator to have no worries about deployment height or correct retraction. A simple three positon switch is all that is needed to operate all winch functions. A number of safety systems are included such as overload protection, signal loss, positional override reset and even an emergency escape procedure in case the winch line were to get tangled or hooked to something on the ground.
Airmageddon is a ‘Robot Wars’ type TV show made by the BBC in conjunction with DHX Media in Canada. It features 9 – 14 year old pilots flying drones in a tasks from obstacle courses, to knocking down brick walls with wrecking balls, lifting objects with electro magnets, hitting targets with paint ball guns and more. The show aired for the first time on CBBC at the end of January 2016.
An interesting project as we had to produce six ‘house drones’ (WASP & GUARD featured in this picture), as well as a fleet of bespoke X8s for the competitors to fly. These had to be very tough but also easy to repair as crashes were, to say the least, common!
LDH8 with RouteScene LidarPod
This X8 prototype flew the first RouteScene LidarPod prototype at the end of 2013, with incredible results. Things have moved on since then and the latest version of the LDH8 is currently under testing with the production version of the pod, achieving flight times of more than 30 mins with payload, in ‘real world’ conditions.
The RouteScene LidarPod stands to be the benchmark for aerial lidar with it’s very low weight and the potential to offer accuracy beyond almost any other aerial lidar system out there.
Raven LD X8
This Raven LD X8 variant has been built to carry the Phoenix Aerials Lidar system. The frame folds for transportation and can carry the 3.5 Kg Lidar payload for 30 mins in real world conditions. The aircraft is tough, stiff, strong and highly reliable over time, and the use of our gel based anti vibration system makes it ideal for sensitive payload applications such a Lidar.
The X8 configuration gives excellent flight characteristics even in windy conditions, along with great redundancy against failure. A custom motor mix ensures greatly improved yaw control and efficiency.
Unfortunately we cannot discuss the payload or application for this particular aircraft, or the reasons behind why it was developed. However the Hex8 is a truly unique aircraft configuration which offers the redundancy offered by 8 motors, with the improved efficiency of having only two pairs of co axial motors. The machine also maintains the benefits gained by co axial aircraft in handling difficult weather conditions.The Hex 8 folds neatly into a compact form factor for transportation.
This is the V1 prototype of the AirLift series currently in development.This particular machine is a folding Hex design with alternated props to reduce the form factor.
Here it is seen flying a 13 Kg dummy payload (a steel anvil) for around 25mins during an indoor hover test.
The production version of this machine is due for release soon, and will be a traditional co axial X8, with a unique folding mechanism and the ability to lift payloads up to 30 Kgs , or carry lighter loads for very long duration flying. This will offer the potential to fulfil a range of applications including maritime SAR.
This Quad is an on going project that utilises thrust vectoring on the all four motors for directional and yaw control, with the idea that the airframe can manoeuvre and / or hold it’s position across the ground by altering the angle of thrust of each motor individually, allowing the airframe to remain level at all times. This means there is no need for the aircraft to change the angle of the frame itself when making transitional moves, and the payload can be kept very nearly level at all times without the need for additional stabilisation.