Viewing entries tagged
drone innovations


USA local: Nasa article - Could This Become the First Mars Airplane?


June 30, 2015

When an aircraft makes its first flight on Mars in the 2020s, a NASA Armstrong innovation may have made it possible.

A prototype of the Preliminary Research Aerodynamic Design to Land on Mars, or Prandtl-m, which is a flying wing aircraft with a twist, is planned to be ready for launch from a high altitude balloon later this year. The Prandtl–m will be released at about at 100,000 feet altitude, which will simulate the flight conditions of the Martian atmosphere, said Al Bowers, NASA Armstrong chief scientist and Prandtl-m program manager.

The tests could validate how the aircraft works, leading to modifications that will allow it to fold and deploy from a 3U CubeSat in the aeroshell of a future Mars rover. A CubeSat is a miniature satellite used for space research that is usually about four inches in each dimension, a 3U is three of those stacked together.

"The aircraft would be part of the ballast that would be ejected from the aeroshell that takes the Mars rover to the planet," Bowers said." It would be able to deploy and fly in the Martian atmosphere and glide down and land. The Prandtl-m could overfly some of the proposed landing sites for a future astronaut mission and send back to Earth very detailed high resolution photographic map images that could tell scientists about the suitability of those landing sites."

Because the Prandtl-m could ride in a CubeSat as ballast aboard the aeroshell/Mars rover piggyback stack going to Mars in 2022-2024, the additional weight would not add to the mission's cost, he said. Once in the Martian atmosphere, the Prandtl-m would emerge from its host, deploy and begin its mission.

"It would have a flight time of right around 10 minutes. The aircraft would be gliding for the last 2,000 feet to the surface of Mars and have a range of about 20 miles," Bowers said.

Before that happens, a configuration will be developed for the first of three tests here on Earth.

"We have a number of summer community college students coming that are going to help us design and build the aircraft that will complete the first phase of the mission," Bowers said. "We're going to build some vehicles and we are going to put them in very unusual attitudes and see if they will recover where other aircraft would not. Our expectation is that they will recover. As soon as we get that information, we will feel much better flying it from a high-altitude balloon."

In fact, Bowers credited the idea of the Prandtl-m to a brainstorming session with colleague Dave Berger, a NASA Armstrong aeronautical engineer who specializes in flow physics and propulsion and works with the Education Office. Berger and Bowers discussed a project that college students could immerse themselves in that would be extraordinary – helping to prepare a vehicle that could lead to a Mars flier was their answer.

"The actual aircraft's wingspan when it is deployed would measure 24 inches and weigh less than a pound," Bowers said. "With Mars gravity 38 percent of what it is on Earth, that actually allows us up to 2.6 pounds and the vehicle will still weigh only 1 pound on Mars. It will be made of composite material, either fiberglass or carbon fiber. We believe this particular design could best recover from the unusual conditions of an ejection."

The Flight Opportunities Program, which is managed at NASA Armstrong, has agreed to fund two balloon flights during the next several years and potentially a sounding rocket flight following that to demonstrate how the flier would work on Mars, Bowers said. The flights will be at one of two locations – Tucson, Arizona, or Tillamook, Oregon. NASA's Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, California, manages the Flight Opportunities solicitation and selection of technologies to be tested and demonstrated on commercial flight vehicles.

"We are going to use GPS initially, but obviously there is no GPS on Mars, so later on we will have to find something else for navigation," Bowers said. "But the little autopilot that provides the waypoint navigation, that's one of the things we're going to exercise on a research vehicle and then on the prototype that flies on a future balloon flight."

The flight test could also include some scientific research that will apply to a Mars mission.

"We could have one of two small science payloads on the Prandtl-m on that first balloon flight," Bowers said. "It might be the mapping camera, or one might be a small, high-altitude radiometer to measure radiation at very high altitudes of Earth's atmosphere. Eventually the aircraft may carry both of them at the same time."

A second research flight from a balloon is planned for next year and would feature an aircraft capable of returning to the launch site on a flight that could be as long as five hours as it glides back to Earth, he said.

"We will do the same thing again with a balloon flight to about the same altitude," Bowers said. "On that mission Prandtl-m would actually be inside a CubeSat container. The balloon would drop the CubeSat container and then the aircraft would deploy from the container right after the drop, unfold and fly away."

Success could lead to a third mission that is already being discussed because the Flight Opportunities Program has access to a sounding rocket capable of going to very high altitudes, Bowers said.

"That mission could be to 450,000 feet and the release from a CubeSat at apogee," he said. "The aircraft would fall back into the Earth's atmosphere and as it approaches the 110,000-to-115,000-feet altitude range, the glider would deploy just as though it was over the surface of Mars.

"If the Prandtl-m completes a 450,000-foot drop, then I think the project stands a very good chance of being able to go to NASA Headquarters and say we would like permission to ride to Mars with one of the rovers."

This illustration shows what a Prandtl-m might look like flying above the surface of Mars.
Credits: NASA Illustration / Dennis Calaba


Jay Levine, X-Press editor
NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center



There’s a new Silicon Valley of drones, and it isn’t in California

Nice article about a trend by Sally French

Published: June 23, 2015 11:20 a.m. ET

A vibrant startup scene

Despite the challenges, other (often smaller) drone companies benefit from the test site.

Most of those companies are based in Fargo, a city that entrepreneurs say bursts with an energy that’s akin to that of the startup scene in San Francisco. But this scene is dominated by drone-based industries.

“We’re becoming a robust startup community,” said North Dakota’s lieutenant governor, Drew Wrigley. “They are the geek squad over in Fargo. You’ve got technical companies and young, energetic entrepreneurs.”

Appareo Systems builds flight-data recorders and ADS-B, a type of aircraft tracking system. Since 2001, that startup has worked on a project in partnership with NASA and the University of North Dakota to build, design and manufacture the ADS-B equipping the airplanes.

Another company, Packet Digital, combines high-speed power electronics with advancements in solar to double drone flight times. The ultimate goal is to provide drones with unlimited flight.

“Once you extend flight time, you open up the possibility of many more types of applications and uses for drones,” said Terri Zimmerman, Packet Digital’s CEO. Those applications could include agriculture, allowing farmers to fly drones over farmland to monitor their crops.

And as more drones fill the airspace, there’s a company working on technology that gives pilots situational awareness of other drones in the area. Botlink allows operators to control a drone from a tablet and detect other drones flying nearby.

The company was founded by Shawn Muehler. He’s the guy behind DroneFocus, a meet-up group in Fargo that grew to 50 members, including Becklund, local startups and public officials. “We’re bringing the government, the private sector, the commercial side together to cut through the red tape,” Muehler said. “It’s the only meet-up where we get every industry player in one room.” Lt. Gov. Wrigley has been known to attend.

Indicative of the group’s attitude, the whole thing is organized through That means anyone is welcome; you just click a button to join. When the group huddles, the gathering feels more like a block party than a rigid policy meeting with a strict agenda, according to attendees.

“We just have a different personality out here,” Muehler said. “It’s not about how we can beat our competitors. It’s how we can help each other out to propel this industry forward.”

Read full article...



France local: Atos moves in as trailblazer with a new offer to enhance the drone value chain

Press release

Le Bourget France, 17 June 2015

Atos, an international leader in digital services, presents its know-how in civilian professional drones and Bull technologies for the protection of sensitive areas at the International Air Show in Le Bourget, June 15 - 21, 2015.

As legislation moves forward, the civilian professional drone sector in France is on the up and up, across a range of areas: media, industry, public services, agriculture etc. The civilian drone sector has now reached a turning point, as players struggle to meet the expectations of major buyers. Civilian drones are also now playing a much heightened role in the protection of territory, defense, transport and industry. Their increasing numbers, their discretion, size and the simplicity of their operation, however, do entail certain risks. It is in this context that the Bull experts working at Atos have developed a ground-breaking solution to create a protective shield for areas vulnerable to drones.

Atos is industrializing and extending the entire drone value chain

Thanks to its expertise in spatial systems and work in close cooperation with its partners over the last 15 years with the main French and European earth observation entities (SPOT Image now AIRBUS DS Geo, CNES, ESA), Atos has the capacity to extend and industrialize the entire drone value chain. Atos is approaching customers with a unique offer to enable them to secure immediate benefits in terms of quality, security, costs, rapid deployment, and products built to last.

Atos has entered into and intends to pursue partnerships with players in the drone sector to produce a turnkey offer: consultancy and deployment in SAAS mode, including flight authorizations from the French civil aviation authority, collection of information picked up by drones, and analysis and correlation in real time with other earth observation data sources to provide results and innovate with new services and usages beyond the present scope of the profession.

Atos is capitalizing on its capacity for innovation, especially Cloud & Big Data, already deployed on recent projects: the SparkIndata consortium, a platform federating earth observation data sources (agriculture, town planning, security, climate, health etc.); datalift, a management solution for massive flows of heterogeneous data to administer and upgrade drone sector data and assist with the emergence of new ecosystems.

Bull technologies to protect sensitive areas against drone risks

The Bull solution aims to protect against two types of drone risk:

  • Infringement of confidentiality: images of industrial secrets, private life etc.
  • Physical risks to people and vital infrastructures, in the case of drones with offensive equipment.
    When the area to be protected has been defined (buildings, monuments, events etc.), it takes only a few minutes to install the electronic surveillance equipment.
    The Bull solution scans the area permanently, automatically pinpointing threats and threat levels by radio waves across a broad spectrum.

As soon as a threat is detected, the solution can act on the drone in two ways:

  • It forces the drone to land, enabling the law enforcement authorities to conduct the necessary investigations on the basis of data carried by the drone.
  • The Bull solution can also force the drone to retrace its steps, giving the authorities an insight into the geographic and human origins of the threat.

This ground-breaking, fully reliable system was produced thanks to the experience of Bull engineers in security, which has helped create intelligent jamming solutions for remote-controlled explosive devices, for example.



HES announces breakthrough 700Wh/kg endurance power system for drones

Horizon Energy Systems announces new 700Wh/kg fuel cell for drones.

Catalyst-free solid hydrogen storage technology exceeds targets set by US DOE.



Singapore, April 22, 2014:
Singaporean company Horizon Energy Systems (HES) announced a breakthrough on-demand hydrogen generation technology based on a solid fuel system, further improving the flight endurance of small fuel cell electric drones. The unique ability to perform long endurance missions with a low-altitude mini-UAV provides considerable new benefits for long endurance missions such as border patrol, infrastructure surveillance, exploration, critical asset and environmental monitoring.

HES’ energy storage innovation follows extensive experience with a first mature system released in 2010 (AEROPAK), which was based on a liquid chemical hydride and a catalytic reactor system. The company will officially unveil the new solid chemical AEROPAK-S at the May 3-7 AUVSI trade show in Atlanta, Georgia (booth 401).

"The new AEROPAK-S is the result of years of effort in simplifying what are typically complex systems and making them easy to deploy “said Taras Wankewycz, HES’ Chief Executive Officer. “We have explored a number of feedstock options through the years and our new system trumps them all on performance, safety and scalability in manufacturing.”

Compared to 200Wh/kg lithium batteries and preceding fuel cell designs, the new 700Wh/kg solid fuel AEROPAK-S completely eliminates the need for a complex catalytic reactor, which reduces size, weight and complexity, while offering a self-contained, plug & play fuel cartridge system.

The new technology is an ideal candidate for powering small electric unmanned aircraft. AEROPAK-S has already powered a commercial mini-UAV flight earlier this year. Custom versions of the system have been in stealth development with several leading aerospace OEMs, some of which are moving to serial production in the coming months.

Numerous industry experts acknowledged HES’ ultra-light fuel cells as a potent power solution for small UAS platforms. While the company’s visibility has mostly been in the fixed-wing segment, it expects to set a new world flight duration record in the multi-rotor segment in the coming weeks.

About Horizon Energy Systems
Headquartered in Singapore, HES deliver the world’s highest performance fuel cells, achieving orders of magnitude beyond what is possible elsewhere today. Where battery performance limits the effective use of these promising unmanned systems, HES’ next-generation fuel cell systems improve versatility and open new mission possibilities for smaller low altitude aircraft, typically reserved for larger, higher altitude and more expensive aircraft.