In a barn lost in the countryside of New Hampshire – land of farms, freedom and open-mindedness – BirdsEyeView mates wings with hexacopters. What kind of offspring do they get? A VTOL, the FireFLY6.
What’s a VTOL? It is a hybrid UAV, a chimera, which takes off and lands vertically (Vertical Take-Off And Landing), and which is usually controlled in flight like a typical flying wing – the best of both worlds.
At BirdsEyeView, it took almost two years and 30 iterations for a small group of aeronautical engineers to give birth to an affordable and reliable flying robot. But even after making the hybrid fly, the hardest puzzle was still to solve: the quest was still on for a smooth transition between hover and horizontal flight – or, more precisely, they needed to find a way to avoid self-destruction in flight!
And that is the milestone that the team announced a few weeks ago: AVA, Advanced VTOL Autonomy. It’s a powerful and reliable flight control script for FireFLY6 that can change flight type autonomously, in the middle of a mission. The system allows the UAV to stop and hover in the middle of a 100-km/h flight, take a picture, then resume its course. The potential is huge – surveillance, herd monitoring, sports video, you name it.
Elsewhere in the VTOL universe, Sony announced earlier this year its participation in the race to manufacture this type of hybrid UAV. With such a huge player, can we expect the VTOL to be a viable option in commercial operations?
Controlled by 3DRobotics’ Pixhawk, the FireFLY, with a one-and-a-half-meter wingspan, offers 45 minutes of autonomy with a load of about 500g (the weight of a mirrorless camera).
With information from: BirdsEyeView
Crédit photo: BirdsEyeView