As we enter 2022, I thought it would be a good time to reflect on where the unmanned helicopter industry has come to.
In the beginning, we saw the challenge not only as developing unmanned heavy helicopters capable of flight, from take-off to landing without human intervention but also as bringing these craft to the masses and out of the hands of the elite.
Manned helicopters are expensive because, at the centre is a human and everything must be designed with the pilots’ safety in mind and according to rigid safety standards with technical and legal restrictions. Unmanned helicopters do not require highly trained, highly sought-after, highly paid pilots and so they are therefore now viable for tasks such as, for example, parcel deliveries. By reducing production costs, by removing the pilots we can reduce or eliminate bureaucratic and legal processes, reduce production costs and remove the human factor.
Once affordable, mass production is possible, unmanned helicopters will have a huge impact on the world as they solve everyday tasks efficiently and visibly for the public.
In order to realise this vision of affordable, unmanned flight companies, will base their strategy on the following theses.
Due to aerodynamics and flight dynamics phenomena, multicopter-type drones can reliably carry small loads over short distances. Multicopters of varying sizes can carry different payloads. For cargo above dozens kilograms and long distances it is more economical and safer to transport by unmanned helicopters.
Currently, piloted cargo helicopters are produced individually by highly skilled engineers and workers at a very high cost and at a slow rate. Unmanned cargo helicopters are much cheaper to produce due to our adoption and adaptation of mass production techniques.
The unmanned helicopter will be a versatile carrier, with the consumer’s ability to choose a helicopter with “options” for their tasks.
Helicopters should be cheap to operate, which means their architecture will be based on technologies and approaches used in the automotive industry ; mass-produced and affordable.
Helicopters must be reliable and safe, which means reworking over one hundred years of accumulated aviation knowledge into today’s approaches and technologies. We are taking the best of this to create modern drones that utilise an array or methods to perform a wide variety of functions.
Given that there will be global demand for unmanned helicopter services, the companies must be global in outlook and product design. We are creating one model for all markets which sets the industry standard.
Unmanned aerial vehicles will be connected into an automated network and calling a helicopter to solve a problem should be no more difficult for a consumer than calling a cargo taxi using an application on a smartphone.
As safety standards evolve, our helicopters are designed to be far ahead of the current norms in order to stay compliant for longer.
The philosophy behind the design of unmanned helicopters is that they must have modular simplicity, ease of use, low-cost maintenance, and maximum utility which will give a wider range of roles, and will reduce environmental pollution.
The unmanned industry has to be a partner with emerging aviation regulatory bodies in various countries to help them establish drone regulations, training and management standards in their respective countries.
Design organisations must strive for certification. Having this certification will open up many new markets, and these discussions with regulators will facilitate taking drone use to a whole new level.
UAV applications will expand rapidly in the near future. An increase in the number of unmanned aerial vehicles will inevitably lead to a convergence of the zones of interest of unmanned and manned aircraft.
Heavy UAV must take priority in integration over lighter drones into UTM (unmanned traffic management) – technological solutions that allow for universal navigation for all drones in a single space, shared with manned vessels. Already, for example, the AURA100 is ready to be equipped with state identification and relative navigation systems.
In the future, heavy UAV companies like ours will offer more complete solutions – for example, the concentration of drones in drone hubs.
Designers of heavy drones will create universal training systems for technical specialists and external pilots. These programs can be easily adapted to the stringent requirements of local state aviation authorities for personnel training.
The company which developed the drones will know where and how each of its aircraft is being operated. They will have to provide remote, automated control over compliance with maintenance requirements and formulate appropriate quality standards for helicopter maintenance.
They have to strive to make helicopters capable of making a decision about the safety of the flight at any given moment, even before starting its engine, based on the current and forecast weather in the given area and along its flight path, the current fuel supply and the helicopter’s payload.
Safety requirements and common sense will force them to automatically prevent the operation of UAV that have not undergone the required maintenance or pre-flight checks and preparation by certified specialists.
Interaction with regulators will lead to providing local aviation authorities with the remote ability to set restriction zones for drones in terms of permitted areas and times.
Enhanced authentication and identification of UAV operators via smartphone and biometric data will eliminate the risk of craft being used illegally.
All of these activities will lead to exponential growth in the number and use of unmanned aerial vehicles and will dramatically increase markets and manufacturers’ revenues. At the same time, they will lessen the load on nature and humans by reducing the load on land transport and reducing the density of traffic flows in highly populated areas. These tangible benefits will solidify a positive perception of drones in the eyes of the public.