Inside Unmanned Systems provides actionable business intelligence to decision-makers and influencers operating within the global UAS community. Features include analysis of key technologies, policy/regulatory developments and new product design.
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54 unmanned systems inside December 2016/January 2017 AIR NEW TOOLS Drone startup companies raised more than $450 million in venture capital across 74 deals in 2015, according to CB Insights of New York, which tracks new drone fi rms and venture capital, a sign of how big a role drones may soon play in everyday life. Now a free online 3-D aircraft design software package is available to help drone startups and university researchers design unmanned aircraft to support this revolution. by Charles Q. Choi "WHEN I WENT into the academic world, I made the deliberate decision to make it open source. Enthusiasts can dig into the code to fi gure out what's going on inside and why it works the way it does, and they can also make it better." Doug Hunsaker, assistant professor of engineering, Utah State University Photos and rendering courtesy of Utah State University L ike the Internet and GPS before them, drones have evolved beyond military applications to become powerful busi- ness tools. In a March 2016 report, Goldman Sachs estimated that total global spending on unmanned aircraft in the commercial market will reach $100 billion in the next five years, with firms increasingly providing hardware, flight and data services to the construction, ag- riculture, energy, utilities and mining industries as well as emergency responders, real estate agents, insurance companies and media firms. Engineers are working furiously to create new platforms able to f ly even more economi- cally, operate in difficult environments and enable new applications like asset tracking. Now a free online 3-D aircraft design software package is helping drone startup companies and university researchers design unmanned fixed-wing—and soon rotorcraft—aircraft to support this revolution. "There are thousands of different missions people are coming up with for drones," said Doug Hunsaker, an assistant professor of me- chanical and aerospace engineering at Utah State University. Before his current academic MachUp: position, Hunsaker was a design engineer for Scaled Composites, the California company behind Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo subor- bital spaceplane. He was also co-founder and CEO of Utah-based Blucraft, which provided web-based computational tools to the aero- space industry designed for quickly analyzing and optimizing airframe designs. Designing any aircraft involves knowing its mission, what payload it needs to carry at what altitude, the speed the payload travels and the time you want it to stay in the air. For exam- ple, "a pipeline surveillance drone might have thousands of miles of pipeline that it wants to inspect," Hunsaker said. "It might have a few cameras, infrared or color, or a sniffer for gases coming out of the pipeline—and you'd want it to have endurance." In contrast, "for a search and rescue air- frame here in the Rocky Mountains, where people get lost hunting or rock-climbing, you maybe wouldn't want as much endurance, but it needs to be faster and more agile to get in and out of canyons and mountain valleys eas- ier," Hunsaker said. "And Amazon's delivery drone has to be able to stop and hover." Free Drone Design Software for Students, Startups