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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

South Africa's ABAT unveils plan for mini-UAV courier business

ABAT UAV had it's wares on display at the Ysterplaat AAD show in October 2006. It was really amazing and there was an amazing response to the autopilot as well as the small planes which we chose as a platform to test and fly the autopilot. Here is an article as written by Peter La Franchi from http://www.flightglobal.com/

The full article as printed by Flight Global can be viewed at http://www.flightglobal.com/Articles/Article.aspx?liArticleID=209216&PrinterFriendly=true

South Africa's ABAT unveils plan for mini-UAV courier business
By Peter La Franchi

The South African-based autopilot manufacturer ABAT has unveiled concepts for a local area courier delivery business based around small electrically powered UAVs.

The “Posduif” – an Africans language word for carrier pigeon - business would utilise a flying wing UAV manufactured from Styrofoam with a pusher propeller and an underslung payload canister. The Styrofoam airframe is sufficiently strong to support repeat operations, but lightweight enough to ensure low kinetic energy ground impact effects in the event of a collision or system failure says company co-founder John Weber.

The UAVs would be dispatched from a central co-ordination centre, with launch either by hand or a rail system. The delivery point would be pre-calculated using GPS with the flight planning system incorporating ground maps, air charts, and a terrain elevation model to allow a safe route to be plotted. The original software suite was developed as a toolset for use in planning aerobatic routines for manned aircraft says Weber, with its evolution into a UAV flight planning system commencing some 18 month ago.

The basic UAV has a 60km range, and uses a GPRS modem, operating over commercial cellular telephone networks, as a datalink. The maximum payload is anticipated to be 0.7kg.

The system would have particular application in supporting remote communities in the African environment Weber says, but could also have a role to play in established urban environments, particularly where speed of delivery was an issue.

Once at the delivery point, the Posduif would either perform a landing, with the lower wing surface acting as a skid, or simply drop the canister from low altitude and then return to the dispatch point.

Weber says if the UAV lands, its return would be achieved by the package recipient simply picking up the UAV and throwing it back into the air. The UAV would automatically detect that it was airborne, stabilise itself and identify its location, and then engage a pre-loaded return flight programme to return to its original departure point.

For high use recipients the business model could also involve setting up a rail launcher with integrated battery recharger to allow for air vehicle return.

Weber says the primary obstacle to the launch of the business remains approvals from South African civil airspace regulators. However he anticipates solutions in the form of a more open flight approvals regime and certification basis for civil UAVs in South Africa in the not too distant future.

As an interim step, ABAT is promoting the basic Styrofoam UAV as a farm management system, adding a low cost staring digital camera to collect imagery. The airframe material again lends itself well to this user community says Weber, as while many South Africa agronomists already using light aircraft in property management and stock control roles, there is a high potential for frequent crashing in the early stages of introducing a UAV system.

A glassfibre or all composite airframe is unlikely to be sufficiently robust to be re-useable after impacting a solid wall or tree Weber says, whereas Styrofoam will absorb the bulk of the impact. If the airframe is badly damaged however, the autopilot and engine module can simply be removed from their mounts and placed into a new wing, something farmers could do themselves.


New380 said...


I google to find http://www.sensefly.com/

Their product "swinglet CAM" looks very very similar to your ABAT UAV, I saw this mini-UAV and is very impressive that what it could provide.