Inside Unmanned Systems

APR-MAY 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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36 April/May 2018 unmanned systems inside SPECIAL REPORT NASA TECHNOLOGY While there are still plenty of challenges to overcome, those leading development in this space are confident it's only a matter of time before air taxis become a reliable, and com- mon, form of public transportation. "The future is now. It's happening," said Mathias Thomsen, general manager for UAM at Airbus. "The activity level over the past year has gone from niche and below the radar to now being very public, with many serious proj- ects underway. I find that encouraging." THE VEHICLES Manufacturers are working to develop a va- riety of vehicle types, with most focused on eVTOL systems that transition to wing-borne f light, Kopardekar said. The vehicles may use battery and distributed electric propulsion, and/or hybrid (battery + fuel) systems. Some will only have rotors, while others will feature a combination of fixed wing and rotors for take-off and landing. No matter the type of vehicle, a lot of re- search is being done by NASA and other play- ers to ensure they're safe, energy efficient and easy to integrate into large urban areas, Kopardekar said. Of course there are many Photos courtesy of Volocopter. questions that need to be answered, such as how can developers create a vehicle with an acceptable noise footprint, how can aircraft safety be assured under all contingencies, how can these vehicles be scaled to high density airspace operations in the presence of other aircraft without overburdening the air traffic management system, and how can these new systems be certified. Volocopter is among the companies devel- oping systems, and has an aircraft that fea- tures 18 rotors powered by nine batteries, said Helena Treeck, who is in charge of public re- lations for the German-based manufacturer. Each battery powers two adjacent rotors that turn in opposite directions. How quickly each rotor turns determines navigation; if the ro- tor in the front moves faster, the aircraft f lies forward, for example. "You can lose a few of the rotors and still be fine. Safety is based on redundancy in the de- sign," she said. "It's very easy to fly a Volocopter. It's like flying a drone. The reason for this is most of the challenges of flying are taken care of by the software. There are a lot of microprocessors and sensors inside the Volocopter that monitor the winds and whether there is any turbulence. Volocopter's system features 18 rotors powered by nine batteries.

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