Unmanned aerial vehicles nowadays are not just a hobby or a toy. They do perform a variety of very useful functions – they can fly long distances taking pictures and video of vast areas or get to places that are too dangerous for people. But in order for them to be as useful as possible, they have to be able to remain operational in a harsh environment. This is why the company PrecisionHawk decided to complete the world’s first extreme-weather testing of unmanned aerial vehicles.
The testing was completed in the ACE climatic wind tunnel at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology. This facility often tests cars, mobile devices of even athletes in extreme weather conditions. It can replicate extreme heat or cold, wind and other elements. This makes ACE a perfect facility to test unmanned aerial vehicles in. The goal of these tests was to accelerate the design cycle and development of protocols related to unmanned aerial vehicles safety and reliability. Such small, radio controlled planes have to be safe in their operation, which means that they have to deal with certain amount of rain, wind, vibration and so on.
Ernest Earon, PrecisionHawk Chief Technology Officer and Co-Founder, said: “UAVs have an enormous number of civil applications such as agriculture, insurance and helping utilities inspect equipment in remote locations. Ensuring and proving UAV reliability is key requirement for future commercial use. ACE offers every possible parameter to help us with our commitment to research into how UAVs can safely operate beyond line-of-sight and in real-world conditions”.
So what did the little unmanned radio controlled plane go though in this testing? It had to perform during experiments of 40 degrees Celsius with rain and wind, -10 degrees with freezing rain and snow, extreme vibration, which mimics landing forces, and many other harsh conditions. And now engineers will benefit from the data gathered to improve safety of unmanned aerial vehicles.
Such unmanned aircrafts are extremely useful, but only as long as they are safe. Drone safety has recently become a concern and many places have been declared no-fly zones for them. However, there is a huge commercial interest in them and we can expect them to become much safer and much smarter in the future.