Unmanned Aerial Systems: Catering To Various Industries
Who are the hitmakers in the recent AUVSI’s Unmanned Systems 2014 Conference?
AUVSI stands for Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, a non-profit international organization whose mission is to promote and support the growing industry of unmanned systems and robotics through education, leadership and communication. One of AUVSI’s paramount programs is organizing the yearly Unmanned Systems conference which is the industry’s largest gathering.
Small UAS Developers Reaching Out To Various Markets
This year, the Unmanned Systems 2014 conference held in Orlando on May 12-15, attracted over 7,000 attendees and almost 600 exhibitors that featured models geared for markets such as:
- Law enforcement
- Search and rescue
- Precision agriculture
- Infrastructure inspection
2014 Conference’s Participants
This year’s event participants were research university spinoffs, former toy and hobby suppliers, consumer electronics manufacturers, and major aerospace companies. In the past, the conference featured UAVs intended mainly for the military because of the seemingly increasing demand for unmanned air vehicles for use in information gathering missions instead of using the traditional communication equipment including military handsets and hand-held radios.
This year showcased a myriad of models vying for a share of the simmering commercial market for small and lightweight (less than 20 pounds) Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS).
Some of the notable designs displayed at the conference include:
Exhibited for the first time at the AUVSI event is the in-development Bebop quadcopter, a flying 14-megapixel “fish-eye” camera which records and streams high definition video. It weighs 14 ounces and it can be flown either by an optional yoke-like “Skycontroller” handset with a mounted tablet computer display or simply by a smartphone or tablet alone.
It has an embedded global navigation satellite system chipset which allows it to fly to user-defined waypoints and a ‘return-home’ function allows it to return to its takeoff point.
This small UAS designed for commercial use weighs 1.5 pound and is hand-launched and self-landing. It is constructed of carbon fiber and EPP foam, with wings that can be detached. It has a flying cycle of 45 minutes in a 3 km radio-link range, using a pusher propeller powered by a LiPo battery.
The bird-looking unmanned vehicle is attached with a 12 megapixel Canon still camera with various sensor options, integrated in the aircraft’s autopilot. The manufacturer says that eBee may be used for:
- Crop monitoring
- Environmental management applications
- Transportation agencies
The Trimble UX5 flying wing is used by the Mesa County Police Department in Colorado and the county’s public works department for aerial surveying. Looking like the eBee, the UX5 is a bit heavier at 5.5 pounds but faster with its powerful 700W pusher-propeller motor.
It has a carbon frame and EPP foam structure, communication and control range of 3.1 miles and flying endurance of 50 minutes. A 16.1 megapixel Sony digital camera is attached to the vehicle which will provide surveyors and geospatial professionals with photogrammetric data over several square kilometers in less than an hour.
Lancaster Mark III
This fixed-wing airplane weighs 3 pounds equipped with an integrated sensor suite which includes a high-resolution RGB camera, thermal infrared, light detection and ranging (Lidar) and hyperspectral. It can take off from a lake surface made possible by a water kit with a set of floats and fly to a particular site, land and taxi to specific coordinates. This capability is particularly useful for agencies that need to collect water samples from a body of water.
Small UAS Developers Making Their Presence Felt
The UAS models showcased in the Unmanned Systems 2014 Conference is a clear indicator of small UAS developers bridging the gap between helicopters and airplanes manned by soldier pilots with hybrid unmanned air vehicles. The miniaturized fixed-wing designs are optimized for remote-controlled missions but multi-rotor helicopters seem to rule the small UAS vehicles.
Have you seen any of these UAS hovering the skies in your area?