Inside Unmanned Systems

AUG 2015

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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57 unmanned systems inside September/October 2015 ENGINEERING. PRACTICE. POLICY. Photos courtesy of AeroVironment, UAI and Aeryon AeroVironment's Puma AE • Mfr: AeroVironment • Type: Fixed-wing • Size: Six feet long with a seven-foot wingspan • Weight: 13.5 lbs. • Flight Time: 3.5 hours • Launch: hand launch, rail launch (optional) • Recovery: autonomous or manual deep-stall landing • Other: Remains stable in winds up to 30 miles per hour UAI's High Endurance Folding Frame (HEFF) • Mfr: UAI • Type: Quadrotor • Size: 880 millimeters motor to motor diago- nally, and uses 17 inch propellers. It sits about 400 millimeters off the ground. • Weight: 2 kg • Flight Time: 30–40 minutes depending on payload • Launch: Vertical takeoff • Recovery: Verticla landing • Other: 40 km range Aeryon SkyRanger • Mfr: Aeryon • Type: Quadrotor • Size: Deployed, 40 in diameter, 9.3 in height • Weight: 5.3 lbs • Flight Time: Up to 50 minutes • Launch: Vertical takeoff • Recovery: Vertical landing • Other: Can operate in rain, snow and high winds up to 55 mph GEAR Another challenge is trying to produce data that has legal meaning behind it, Whiteside said. There's a whole series of steps and levels of standardiza- tion, certifications and protocols these companies must follow so they can be used in a legal setting. So they not only have to follow the FAA's regulations for flying UAS, they also have to meet industry legal and safety standards every time they fly. And while many people say the UAS technology is there and the industry is just waiting for the FAA regulations to catch up, Whiteside said the technol- ogy is still new and needs to be proven. "It's up to us to vet the technology, prove how it operates and define areas where there may be more risk and understand those areas very well. With the absence of standardization, that's difficult to do," Whiteside said, noting standardization is something VDOS is working on. "The technology has a long way to develop and evolve before it's where people assume it's going to be in the near future." Looking Ahead Even today, oil and gas companies already flying UAS have realized its many benefits. Not only can they perform inspections and other tasks quicker with fewer people, they can perform them more safely and at a fraction of the cost, Millar said. UAS offers better access to difficult-to-reach areas, without the need for scaffolding. They can record the data, take baseline surveys and provide a point cloud to build 3-D models that make it possible to tie all that data together. "Rather than looking at a spreadsheet of numbers, you can pull the model up and have information superimposed on it," Millar said. "You get the full picture instead of just isolated data." And as more oil and gas companies learn about UAS and become com- fortable with the technology, and as regulations become more defined, Whi- teside said, UAS will become part of standard operating procedures. UAS technology also gives energy companies access to information they never had before and the opportunity to not only better analyze the data they collect, but to repeatedly collect data for future comparisons and analysis as well. The technology will continue to improve with batteries lasting longer, sensors getting better, and platforms becoming more standardized. While there are already countless applications, companies will continue to dis- cover more opportunities to use this technology to save time. "The market is bigger than most people realize," Whiteside said. "There's tremendous need for this technology, and it seems like every time we talk with a company about a project, we're asked to f ly five or six more missions than what was considered in the first discussion. The forecast and market is bigger than what people understand, but the technology and laws have to improve. The industry has to get out of the Wild Wild West mindset. But the market is significant, and it's a very exciting time to be doing what we're doing."

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