Sea Technology

APR 2017

The industry's recognized authority for design, engineering and application of equipment and services in the global ocean community

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www.sea-technology.com April 2017 / st 37 L ooking for schools of fish in the vast oceans? Trying to wind your ship through labyrinthine ice fields in the Arctic? Doing surveys of marine mammals for a conserva- tion mission? Conducting search and rescue at sea? Man- aging coastal and border protection? Chasing illegal, unre- ported and unregulated fishing poachers? Monitoring your offshore oil and gas infrastructure? Conducting atmospher- ic data collection? These scenarios are among the many marine applications for which our cutting-edge Aerovel Flexrotor UAS (unmanned aerial system) is designed. The veteran UAS engineering team at Aerovel, led by Dr. Tad McGeer, designed Flexrotor to operate over oceans and remote areas while sending high-quality imagery to its con- trol center. Flexrotor offers an unprecedented combination of small size, light footprint, long endurance and economy. It launches as a helicopter, transitions to wing-borne flight for efficient cruise, and then lands again as a helicopter. Because Flexrotor is a VTOL (vertical takeoff and land- ing) aircraft, it can be based anywhere that has a 20-by-20- ft. area clear of obstructions. It is designed for use on icebreakers, large fishing vessels, Coast Guard vessels, Navy ships, cruise ships and large private yachts for day and night operations. A one-of-a-kind, fixed-wing aircraft, Flexrotor requires no runway and no launch and retrieval equipment. Since its inception, it was designed to operate in maritime environments off ships. The current Mark 1 Flexrotor aircraft has 16 hr. of endurance at 45-kt. cruise speed. The forthcoming Mark 2 Flexro- tor aircraft will offer ultralong endur- ance. Maximum weight is less than 22 kg/50 lb. The aircraft has a 3-m wingspan when operating in fixed-wing configura- tion and typically operates at an altitude of 2,000 to 3,000 ft. It is propelled by a 28-cubic-cm, two-stroke engine and has a maximum range of 500 naut. mi. if op- erated at its maximum speed of 86 kt. A steerable, zoomable imaging turret performs search and target tracking with a daylight or infrared camera. The standard-definition video can be downlinked to a 2-m (6- ft.) shipboard antenna over as much as 100 km, and more compact antennas can be used where less video range is required. Easily stowed in a 2-m (6-ft.) handling box, Flexrotor quickly assembles for flight. It can be rapidly restowed in its assembly box for safe handling and compact storage within the confines of shipboard spaces. Shipboard equipment includes data links, antennas and an operator station. The operator station combines video and telemetry from the aircraft with inputs from shipboard equipment such as radar, AIS and GPS. Installation is rapid and can be done in one to two days. The operator can, for example, command the aircraft to fly to, orbit and image a waypoint represented by a bird-radar target, or to search in its vicinity. Targets can be automatically identified and tracked, with the aircraft maneuvering and the turret point- Aerovel Flexrotor Unmanned Aerial System UAS Enhances Maritime Situational Awareness By Andy Nickerson (Top) Flexrotor launches as a helicopter then transitions to wing-borne flight for ef- ficient cruising. (Bottom) Aerial view from Flexrotor as it helps guide a ship through labyrinthine ice in the Arctic.

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