Inside Unmanned Systems

DEC 2017 - JAN 2018

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 APPLICATIONS 40 unmanned systems inside December 2017/January 2018 "One big challenge we saw with drones was that their gimbals are very heavy and very fragile," Fisher said. "This makes sense, be- cause they are complicated and doing an aw- ful lot." Luckily, Vantage co-founder and chief tech- nology officer Joe van Niekerk not only worked on autonomous vehicles, but also previously designed $250,000 gimbals for the military. "To make our gimbal lighter and tougher, we only had it control two axes and not three axes of motion, and developed a way to use Snap's propellers as the third axis of the gimbal, which involved creating canted propellers that gave us more control over the yaw axis," Fisher said. "That change, combined with electronic image stabilization, helped us drop the third axis on the gimbal." Vantage also developed motor control- lers that can adjust propeller speed from 0 to 10,000 rpm faster than an eye blink. This helps Snap perform better in variable winds and tightens its yaw control. Snap relies on GPS, sonar, a 3-axis magne- tometer, a dual 3-axis accelerometer, a dual 3-axis gyroscope and a barometer to help it know where it is, as well as ground-facing sonar for automatic ground avoidance. Each drone has triple redundancy on attitude and altitude estimation, double redundancy on heading es- timation, triple redundancy on battery connec- tions, rigorous checks for identifying bad sen- sors before takeoff, and Vantage researchers are developing techniques for controlled landings in the event of a single-motor failure. If a Snap drone loses track of its user's loca- tion, it will come to a stop and wait for a signal. If it is unable to reconnect, it will automati- cally f ly back to its takeoff location. It can also return to its user or takeoff location with a push of a button. Snap has tested well in winds above 20 mph, although Vantage suggests not operating the drone in winds over 15 mph. In addition, while not waterproof, Snap can be f lown in light rain, heavy fog and over water, though it's best not to f ly too close to choppy seas. Currently, you cannot have more than one Snap tracking you at once. You can have mul- tiple Snaps tracking an event if multiple users are each controlling one of the drones. Snap is not built with obstacle avoidance capabilities right now. However, Vantage does plan to offer a module to enable this. Other ac- cessories Vantage plans to offer in the future for Snap include lights; an endurance rotor set that allows one hour of f light time; a speed rotor set for high-speed f light and improved performance in the wind; a DSM and LTE cel- lular modem module for enhanced communi- cations; a 1,500-meter Wi-Fi range extender; and a waterproof tracking beacon. Currently, Snap has a hover accuracy of about 1.5 meters laterally, 0.2 meters verti- cally within sonar range of the ground, and 1 meter vertically above sonar range—and it has a tracking precision of less than 3 meters. However, "we have software changes to boost hover accuracy, especially in GPS-denied situ- ations, and we're working on a number of dif- ferent ways to improve the tracking precision as well, primarily by augmenting the phone's GPS with additional hardware," Fisher said. Winning a Waiver The waiver that CNN and Vantage received is the latest success in CNN's efforts with the FA A to develop a repeatable process to op- erate UAS over people. In 2015, CNN was selected by the FA A as one of the first three industry partners to help advance safe uses of UAS in U.S. national airspace. CNN explored FOR MORE INFORMATION The Part 107 Waiver allowing CNN to operate over people can be found by searching the Part 107 Waivers Granted database at The waiver was issued October 13, 2017 and expires October 31, 2021. FOR MORE on how drones are being used to cover the news, read News from a Different Angle at RELATED STORIES ONLINE Photo courtesy of CNN.

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