- Title: Delft designers hope for drone take-off
- Date: 4th November 2016
- Summary: DELFT, NETHERLANDS (OCTOBER 5, 2016) (REUTERS) (SOUNDBITE) (English) TU DELFT'S MAVLAB UAV PROJECT MANAGER, BART REMES, SAYING: "You can take this drone on the front of a ship where it takes off vertically and start looking for people in need in the sea, and then you can drop life vests from the air to rescue people. Or, for instance, in African regions where it's very hard to come nearby a hospital you can use these kind of drones to transport medical supplies to local areas or take, for instance, blood samples or other samples to the hospital."
- Embargoed: 19th November 2016 10:33
- Keywords: drone TU Delft delftacopter Wright Brothers Bart Remes helicopter
- Location: DELFT, NETHERLANDS
- City: DELFT, NETHERLANDS
- Country: Netherlands
- Topics: Science
- Reuters ID: LVA00457145ZV
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: The Wright brothers Orville and Wilbur are arguably the most famous names in aviation, making history on December 17, 1903 when they were credited with successfully flying an airplane for the first time.
The American siblings' biplane became the standard design in aviation's early years - a fixed-wing aircraft with two main wings stacked one above the other. But this style soon went out of fashion.
Engineers at Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) are revisiting the technology in their Vertical TakeOff and Landing (VTOL) drone, the delftAcopter.
The delftAcopter is one of a number of prototype VTOL drones currently being tested, aiming to combine the longer range and impressive payload capacity of fixed-wing drones and the agility of multicopters, enabling take-off and landing in restricted spaces.
According to TU Delft's MAVlab UAV project manager, Bart Remes: "The delftAcopter is actually a marriage of a fixed wing and a flying wing of a helicopter. So we put a big helicopter rotor head and put it in front of a flying wing and we can take off like a real helicopter and then transition to forward flight, like a normal fixed wing airplane with a very big propeller in the front, so we are very efficient in forward flight but also in hover flight."
Remes explained the decision to resurrect biplane technology. "The reason why we have a biplane wing is because during hover we want to have as less as possible surface area because of gusts on the wing, but in forward flight you want to have a big wing surface, so we can fly very efficiently in forward flight - and that's the reason why we have a biplane configuration. And we have a big amount of aerial surface in forward flight and a small amount of surface in hover-flight," he told Reuters.
Before take-off, the delftAcopter sits upright with its propeller spinning horizontally, similar to that of a helicopter. As it reaches the required height, the drone can move 90 degrees, with the propeller facing forward. This allows it to travel at around 100 kilometres per hour.
Tasks such as take-off, forward flight transition, and landing can be undertaken autonomously thanks to MAVlab's in-house designed open source UAV autopilot system, paparazziuav.org. An Iridium satellite connection allows users to control it from anywhere on the planet.
Video is recorded via a fish-eye stereo camera used in conjunction with an off-the-shelf Parrot S.L.A.M.dunk developer kit. The latter also acts as in-built obstacle avoidance, which keep the 4 kilogram (8.8 lb) craft safe. An inertial measurement unit (IMU) and global positioning system (GPS) monitor the delftAcopter's in-flight position
It can fly for up to one hour on a single charge using its 10,000 mAh (milliampere-hour) on-board battery.
In September the delftAcopter finished second in Australia's UAV Medical Express Challenge and won the Airmanship award. The contest involved sending an autonomous, self-built, aircraft to find a stranded person 30 kilometres (18 miles) away and retrieve a blood sample from them.
The Mavlab team will carry on modifying their design, with the eventual aim of incorporating a finished version into rescue missions.
"You can take this drone on the front of a ship where it takes off vertically and start looking for people in need in the sea, and then you can drop life vests from the air to rescue people," said Remes. "Or, for instance, in African regions where it's very hard to come nearby a hospital you can use these kind of drones to transport medical supplies to local areas or take, for instance, blood samples or other samples to the hospital."
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