Eye Above – Our quest to create the proper UAV for the African bush continues – Drones Information
With the constant need to face the challenge of the African landscape, we have now had to deviate from convention again – by implementing outer wing sections on our UAVs that can lower on takeoff and landing!
After intensive research into what a UAV has to do in the challenging and rough terrain of the African bush. We decided to take another step in researching this daunting and unconventional concept, and these are in a nutshell:
Most importantly, the need for Autonomous Vertical Takeoff and Landing (VTOL).
In order for the UAV to remain battery-powered and maintain the desired transmission time, it would have to land at some point and take fresh batteries. Continuous trips back to the base for battery changes would reduce efficiency. Hence, our vision required a customizable plan that included landing and picking up batteries in multiple locations. However, we cannot have a pilot available at every location, so the UAV must be able to land and take off again with minimal assistance.
Autonomous VTOL requires wing discard itself, BUT a VTOL fixed wing can encounter many potential complications during VTOL that add complexity to a critical phase of the flight.
The first problem is the ground effect – an increase in aerodynamic lift coupled with a decrease in the drag created by the wings closer to the ground. Add gusts of wind or wash large VTOL rotors. The result is likely a UAV that is extremely shy and difficult to control when you are closer to the ground.
As a result, the engines may have to work extremely hard to stabilize the UAV, and in extreme cases the UAV may even wheel a wheel if the engines cannot provide enough stabilization.
Our great engineers David van Der Merwe and Carel Kriek helped develop a system where The Eye Above’s UAVs have wings that are divided into almost two equal parts, with the front motors at the intersection of the wings. Dropping the outboard wing will not remove lift, but it will change the lift patterns. This means our front engines don’t have to work as hard when trying to stabilize the UAV near the ground. VTOL rigid wings require a landing gear to land. Usually you can choose between fixed and retractable landing gear. In both cases, the UAV must be far enough off the ground to prevent debris from being carried into the forward propellers. In the case of a retractable landing gear, this becomes a challenge. When it comes to fixed landing gear, there is a chance it blocks the view of 360 ° rotating cameras.
By adding landing skids to the wing tips and using the bracket as a shock absorbing mechanism, we are simply using the lowered outer wings to act as the landing gear. The wing automatically lowers to the landing position. This effectively solves two problems with one solution. We have a landing mechanism that allows clear camera views and it is easy and effective to provide the necessary ground clearance as well.
There’s even an added benefit in transporting the UAV. In the landing position it is then possible to release the mechanism and fold the wings for transport under the UAV. This also speeds up the deployment, as no cabling has to be interrupted when the UAV is transported.
We are also evaluating designs for a system that will allow the wings and tail boom to fold and unfold from the transport position so that the UAV can deploy from a pod and unfold autonomously.
Let us know what you think of this interesting new development and how you think Eye Above’s drones are making a difference to the rhinoceros poaching attempts in southern Africa.
Thank you for your interest and look forward to sharing further findings and project updates with our interested supporters on our further journey!
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