Primoco UAV – A Czech Unmanned Aerial Car Geared up with World-Class Know-how – Drones Information
JUDr. Jakub Fojtík, Ph.D., LL.M.
Czech Primoco UAV SE’s unmanned aerial vehicles were recently seen in the sky
more often, which is related to the growth of the company. This year the company completed tests of a new configuration of its Primoco UAV One 150 aircraft and signed several cooperation agreements with various companies to enable the use of these machines for entirely new missions. With global changes in aviation, there is an increased interest in unmanned aerial vehicles as they enable a wide variety of tasks to be performed at significant cost savings.
The Primoco UAV One 150 aircraft is a high performance aircraft with a wingspan of
Almost 5 meters and a maximum take-off weight of 150 kg. The weight limit was chosen in view of the requirement to categorize an aircraft in military operations according to the STANAG 4703 standard and in a civilian environment as a representative of a certain category (EASA). In practice, this requirement ensures a high degree of adaptability to the individual conditions of each customer and his aviation authority with the possibility of change.
The aircraft can carry a payload of equipment up to 30 kg, while the same capacity is normally only achieved by much heavier and more expensive machines. The aircraft is equipped with a sophisticated autopilot that ensures precise control of the aircraft during the day, night and in difficult weather conditions. Thanks to the autopilot and the integrated radio altimeter, the aircraft offers fully automatic take-off and landing. For safety reasons, the navigation system is designed for double redundancy and, in addition to the primary GPS / Glonass / Galileo navigation, also has an inertial navigation system to continue a flight after a failure of the primary navigation
or in an environment with strong electrical noise.
The data connection for signal transmission between the aircraft and the ground control station ensures the transmission of the control telemetry over a distance of up to 200 km and also enables online data transmission from the on-board sensors. The payload can be installed in various positions in the aircraft, e.g. B. in the aircraft nose, in the middle of the fuselage or on the sides. Not only does the aircraft offer high load-bearing capacity for special sensors, it also offers a high degree of configurability and a very large installation space that allows it to carry sensors normally used in manned aircraft or much larger UAVs.
In terms of the capabilities of the aircraft at the level of each unit and overall, the aircraft significantly exceeds the requirements of aviation regulations.
This year the development of the production version of the Primoco UAV One 150 aircraft was completed. Several changes have been made, including the installation of a new type of landing gear that allows better handling of lower quality runways, redesigning the cabling to reduce maintenance and increase safety, changing the aircraft software, but above all the integration of new ones High-end sensors. The resulting configuration, now offered to customers, improves parameters such as flight duration to over 15 hours.
The fact that this value is not only theoretical, but also real, was demonstrated by the company on April 16, 2020, when one of the aircraft flew from the factory airport in Písek – Krašovice and made a continuous flight of 15 hours and 3 minutes. Overall, the machine flew 1,650 km with an average consumption of 2.2 liters per flight hour. This flight is not only a Czech record, but holds the world’s leading position in the specified weight class. The aircraft’s endurance is one of its greatest strengths.
Primoco UAV SE, the Czech unmanned aircraft developer, is making great strides and has received permission to foreign trade in military equipment and has also gone public on the Prague Stock Exchange.
So that military customers can take full advantage of the Primoco UAV One 150 aircraft, Primoco UAV SE has taken steps to certify the aircraft in accordance with the STANAG 4703 standard. The first step was to get Production (POA) and Development (DOA) approval. In parallel, there is a longer certification period for the aircraft itself.
Above the Czechoslovak border
The actual maturity of each aircraft is checked based on its actual use. The aircraft is now gaining experience from live operations on three continents. In May of this year, the media reported on the use of the Primoco UAV One 150 to guard the Czech border with Slovakia and Austria along a border line of over 200 km. The use of the aircraft was requested by the Czech Police Aviation Service, which wanted to check the use of an unmanned aerial vehicle to carry out these tasks.
From Monday to Friday, day and night, the aircraft flew nearly 2,000 km with a maximum distance of over 60 km from the control station. It was the first Beyond Visual Line Of Sight domestic flight in the Czech Republic and the EU.
To this end, the Czech Civil Aviation Authority declared a no-fly zone to ensure operational safety in the region. For these flights the aircraft was equipped with an Epsilon 175 camera system, which was equipped with a daylight HD camera with 30x zoom and a thermal image channel with a cooled chip as well as 15x zoom and GPS location function. Therefore, the operator could clearly determine the GPS coordinates of the point of interest in every phase of the flight, with the possibility of automatic recognition and tracking of the subject of interest (object tracking).
However, the most active operator is the Malaysian Air Force, which uses Primoco UAV One 150 for patrol missions and air commands in several areas of their sea and land borders. The aircraft is equipped with an EO / MWIR unit, flies up to a range of 200 km and carries out flights for several hours a day. The security forces in Malaysia managed to intercept hundreds of intruders. In these cases, the local air force immediately sends an intervention team of armed helicopters, and the coast guard sends fast boats while the Primoco UAV One 150 monitors the intruder until the security forces reach the location, and then monitors the entire operation and gives the order to employees with Live imaging data on progress.
In June of this year, the Primoco UAV One 150 made another premiere when the aircraft was controlled in real time at a distance of 9,700 km. Due to the closure of the border, Primoco UAV SE’s technicians were unable to travel to service and modernize the aircraft at the customer’s in Malaysia, so everything was done remotely.
Only customer employees were on site and provided a security team. With the help of local technicians, all maintenance work was carried out remotely and then the first operational flights in the region were flown. However, the aircraft was fully controlled from company headquarters throughout the flight.
Extensive sensor options
The Primoco UAV One 150 is currently being rated by several military customers as it offers the greatest load capacity for special equipment, control area, and flight duration in its class. Primoco UAV SE is constantly working to expand the possible uses of the aircraft.
For example, a version with a multi-sensor configuration (multipayload) of EO / MWIR units Epsilon 175, which is equipped with an HD daily channel with 30x zoom, with the possibility of an LLLTV and SD thermal image channel (MWIR) with 15 -x zoom. This camera represents the current standard of the aircraft and is fully integrated into the UAV control system. It enables a survey to be carried out day and night and, thanks to the MWIR spectrum, to a certain extent even under difficult viewing conditions.
The software includes geolocation for determining the GPS coordinates of an object of interest with one click and transmitting them to the pilot to change the flight profile or to the C4I system. An interesting feature is the automatic tracking of a static object (the camera rotates while maneuvering to maintain contact) and a dynamic target (object tracking). The camera is an economically cost-effective solution with excellent parameters. The second sensor was an electronically deflected Synthetic Aperture Electron Beam (AESA) SAR radar from a leading US manufacturer, Imsar.
The selected radar model offers the Primoco UAV One 150 a much better detection capacity than larger unmanned aerial vehicles that carry radar devices with a mechanically deflected antenna. The newly integrated NSP-7 is Imsar’s largest radar family and is commonly carried on Beechcraft King Air aircraft.
The Primoco UAV One 150 is the first UAV in the world to integrate a similar type of radar in its class. The radar range enables the distance reconnaissance of an area of interest, regardless of weather and propagation conditions.
It offers advanced image processing automation and the operator can choose between Strip, Spot and GMTI modes in which sophisticated software enables real-time results to be displayed. The first mode is the classic continuous mapping of the surface, in which the aircraft monitors the space below and creates a digital image of the landscape with the possibility of recognizing vegetation, buildings, vehicles or people. The second mode enables the creation of 3D data and the complete mapping of the specified area of interest from different viewing angles during arrival, overflight and take-off. Finally, the GMTI mode enables the automatic detection of moving targets, whether people, vehicles or ships.
The sensitivity of the radar is so high that it can even detect objects that move more slowly than a human. The most exciting skill is what is known as CCD (Coherent Change Detection) mode, in which the radar detects changes in the environment caused by changes in the surface from the air and can detect not only traces of vehicles in the field, but also improvised IEDs -Fees on roads and paths. The radar operator works with an image library system and can detect potentially dangerous changes in the environment in real time.
In addition to SAR radar, the company is also preparing the integration of UWB radar in order to detect targets covered by vegetation. This role is particularly necessary in Southeast Asia, where the company has already delivered several aircraft. A similar device made it possible to detect the movement of people or vehicles in densely forested areas where conventional optical or thermal imaging devices fail. Radar devices are basically only intended for military customers, for whom the aircraft equipped in this way offers a variety of detection options at minimal cost and maximum security. The operational safety situation for some customers makes it very difficult to use operationally sophisticated and financially costly manned aircraft in similar areas, and unmanned aerial vehicles are a natural and effective substitute.
The effective range of the radar limits the flight altitude and thus the crews of manned aircraft are exposed to the risk of fire on the ground. This risk is largely eliminated with unmanned Primoco UAV SE aircraft, as the aircraft has no crew and also operates very quietly. Due to its small size, it is practically impossible to see it at its working height while flying.
In addition, the company is working on the integration of an interference system (disturbance system) for stand-in and stand-off interference. In this area too, the company managed to find another partner and prepare a new solution. Another device integrated into the aircraft is a camera with a scan resolution of 150 MPix, which can take detailed images of the surface and recognize objects the size of a payment card. The images are re-tagged with GPS coordinates to accurately determine the position of the object of interest and can be combined to create a realistic map. All sensors are integrated as modules and can be exchanged during flight preparation so that a configuration change does not take longer than 30 minutes. Therefore, one device can perform different missions during the day and provide outputs from different sensors to the user. In addition, a large number of sensors can be worn and used simultaneously.
From the point of view of the operational safety of unmanned aircraft, pilot training remains a key area for which there are no existing standards in the field of legislation.
Remote-controlled aircraft pilots in most countries with extensive experience with UAVs are divided into external and internal pilots. You operate the aircraft internally via the ground control station. After pre-flight preparation and thorough flight planning, including the selection of a suitable route and altitude profile, the aircraft is controlled using advanced automation. With the Primoco UAV One 150 it is possible to ensure the entire course of the flight from take-off to landing, as the machine is equipped with full automation of take-off and landing with high accuracy. This of course applies under the conditions of a standard flight envelope. In the event of an operational need, the limits for the flight envelope may be exceeded (mostly in strong crosswinds, which can change dramatically during a 15-hour flight) or possible non-standard situations (e.g. defects due to damage to the aircraft in flight etc.). ) the aircraft is controlled by an external pilot in a basically similar way to an RC aircraft control station.
This control is mainly carried out in the area of supervision, for example where the
The autopilot takes care of the return to the airport area and then takes over control by an external pilot.
The training of external pilots is a demanding discipline for which classic RC models are still used worldwide. The disadvantage of this solution is not only the relatively high price due to the normal accidents during training, but most importantly the inability to simulate complex conditions (such as weather influences, limited visibility or deficiencies) and therefore has a relatively limited efficiency. Therefore, Primoco UAV SE, in cooperation with the Czech VR Group a.s. has developed a fully synthetic training system based on virtual reality technology. This external pilot simulator, the main element of which is digital 3D glasses with an interconnected control system, enables complete, safe, repetitive training of various tasks in which the instructor can introduce intentional “errors” (e.g. engine shutdown, locking of the control surface, asymmetrical surface function etc.).) or external influences (simulation of ambient air traffic, simulation of rain or snow and ice for different detention conditions after landing, simulation of wind with different vectors, simulation of variable viewing conditions in fog, smoke or clouds) etc. Simulator also offers the possibility to play the flight and the flight analysis with an instructor. The virtual environment in which the simulator works offers the possibility to configure it as
Customized and, for example, using a synthetic copy of the future actual location as a virtual training basis. In addition to this external pilot simulator, Primoco UAV also offers a complete internal pilot simulator i.e. H. A real replica of the ground control station. Their interconnection then offers the possibility of comprehensive training for the entire crew.
The experience of VR Group a.s. enables the connection of the UAV simulation system with other customer simulators and thus also offers fully synthetic training in the cooperation of UAV pilots with other components of aviation. In terms of scope, this is the most modern simulation concept available, which was already implemented during a two-month test deployment in Israel, i. H. Tested very successfully in the place where modern UAVs were made.
The development of the unmanned aerial vehicle Primoco UAV One 150 has continued since 2015. In the near future, the company is aiming to obtain a proper sample certificate for the machine, which will be used to complete the development phase. Compared to manned aviation, however, unmanned aerial vehicle legislation is still developing, and there is only a binding code of law at NATO level. Certification therefore requires close cooperation with the aviation authorities as it is carried out in parallel with the development of legislation in this area.
The origin of the airplane is now a completely unique feature. It was designed, built and developed entirely in the Czech Republic with no government support, subsidies or bank loans, and it contains only three components from abroad. These are the autopilot, the data link and the secondary radar transponder.
The “Made in the Czech Republic” certification is therefore not only a label for the Primoco UAV One 150, but also an important sales argument, as our country continues to enjoy a good reputation in the aviation industry.