The prototype of a new hybrid drone has just been unveiled at a conference in Odense, Denmark. The project is headed by DTU Space, and DTU is, among other things, contributing with high-precision navigation, which means that the drone manoeuvres with an accuracy of down to five centimetres.
After 14 months of development, the first prototype of the Smart UAV drone was recently presented at Hans Christian Andersen Airport at the drone conference Nordic UAS Event.
And it looks nothing like a conventional drone. Boasting a unique design with two rotors in the fuselage, and two moving rotors on the wing tips, it is both capable of flying as a traditional multirotor/helicopter and as an ordinary fixed-wing aircraft, where all buoyancy comes from the wings.
This gives the drone vertical take-off and landing capability as well as long range at relatively high speed. It also features a special precision GPS enabling it to manoeuvre with an accuracy of down to five centimetres—something which is not possible with ordinary drones.
Long range and glide capability
“The advantage of the hybrid drone is that it combines long-range flight and hovering while taking pictures or carrying out measurements. It enables consulting engineers, local authorities as well as other public authorities and private enterprises to collect data faster and more accurately than previously. Also, police and emergency services can use the Smart UAV to get an overview of an emergency situation and deploy rescue helicopters or firefighters, where they can be most useful,” says Michael Linden-Vørnle, head of DTU Space DroneCenter which facilitates drone research at DTU.
Measuring water levels
The Smart UAV is the brainchild of DTU Space and DTU Environment, which are partnering with the company Sky-Watch A/S, Innovation Fund Denmark, and the American aircraft manufacturer Boeing which provides professional sparring. Together, they will complete development of the prototype in 2016, after which Sky-Watch A/S will launch the drone on the market under the name Muninn VX1.
According to the plan, the first prototype will fly over Mølleåen river close to DTU Lyngby Campus. It will initially carry equipment to measure water levels, which will be used to gather knowledge about, for example, sea levels, temperature profiles, and water flows. In this way, you can create an overview of how best to safeguard against, among other things, flooding.
Carrying other types of equipment, the Smart UAV can retrieve water samples from hard-to-access sites, provide an overview of large fires, detect rip currents at beaches, or find people in distress. Industry can, among other things, use the hybrid drone for inspection of wind turbines and oil rigs, or for traffic monitoring. The drone can be fitted with different types of measuring equipment weighing up to 1.5 kg.
New industrial success story
“We entered the project because we want to help create a new industrial success story and because we want to develop a flexible research platform. The project offers DTU’s students and researchers the opportunity to develop and exploit drones for research into high-precision navigation, test new sensor systems, and to solve specific tasks within, for example, environment, monitoring, and mapping,” says Kristian Pedersen, Director of DTU Space.