Inside Unmanned Systems

AUG-SEP 2017

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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AIR DELIVERY SERVICES 60 unmanned systems inside   August/September 2017 deliver food, but could even one day be partly made of food. The notion for the Pouncer came from a con- versation Gifford had with a Royal Air Force officer who sought tips on how to get humani- tarian aid into war zones. Trucks are suscep- tible to mines, helicopters are vulnerable to at- tack, and parachuted supplies are inaccurate, with such pallet drops at times landing in the hands of the enemy. Gifford suggested that a one-way UAS could deliver supplies to disaster or conf lict zones that are otherwise inaccessible or unsafe for humanitarian missions to reach. The dispos- able airframe could initially be made of wood that people could use for shelter or burn for warmth or cooking. Gifford then reasoned that a one-way UAV could not only carry food, but could itself be made partly from edible materials, such as uncooked pasta, if they had light and strong laminated or honeycomb structures. Prototypes This Year The first Pouncer UAS will be made of tradi- tional construction materials, such as wood and plastic, to ensure quicker certification. Once tested and deployed, Windhorse then will concentrate on replacing as much of the fuselage, skin, core, struts, wing and winglets as possible with edible materials. Although this idea may seem pie-in-the-sky, "if we can get an extra 5 kilograms of food onto a drone by using edible materials as structural materi- als, this strategy means we can feed an extra five people for a day," Forrester said. Windhorse currently envisions three differ- ent sizes of the delta wing Pouncer UAS. The 1.8-meter-wingspan Mark I will weigh about 25 kilograms when fully loaded and will be able to carry about 20 kilograms of sup- plies—enough to keep 20 people alive for 24 hours. The 2.8-meter-wingspan Mark II will weigh 60 kilograms when fully loaded with 50 kilograms of cargo for 50 people, while the 3.8-meter-wingspan Mark III is expected to top out at around 120 kilograms when fully loaded with 100 kilograms of supplies for up to 100 people for a 24-hour period, Forrester said. "We're going to introduce the Mark II first," Forrester said. Initial tests with Pouncer UAS involved a small electric motor and batteries that could provide up to 20 minutes of climb time. They will ultimately rely on simple off-the-shelf GPS for guidance, and an autopilot function- ality chip for control, Forrester added. "I call it a van with wings," he said. A Pouncer could get launched a number of different ways—from the back of a transport plane, from a weather balloon, from a ship, or from a catapult on the ground. The mo- tor can then help it climb in altitude, and the UAS will glide the rest of the way to the tar- get. Depending on the altitude the Pouncer can reach, it could travel up to 100 miles, Forrester said. "That way a transport aircraft may not necessarily have to f ly over hostile territory," he said. To land, a Pouncer would slow and then stall its f light, deploying a parachute or some other device to help it gradually descend from a height of about 300 or 400 feet. The firm believes it can land a Pouncer within seven to 10 meters of a particular point, Forrester said. Windhorse would work with emergency services and other organizations to designate landing zones. Windhorse is currently testing concept demonstrators and is looking to build sev- eral full prototy pes over the summer. The company is aiming for full f light tests be- fore the end of 2017, w ith Pouncers ready for cer tif ication in early 2018 if all goes well, Forrester said. "We will initially be launching Mark-II glid- er variants without the motor, which can be operated from transport aircraft in large vol- umes to help large-scale operations," Forrester said.

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