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Project Update – February 2018

The Sky Hopper project has undergone a full design review over the past three months. We now have a set of approved CAD design drawings that are being assessed for specification approval.  This process will be completed shortly.

At that point, we will be ready to start our initial demonstrator build.  We have decided to call this the “Sky Hopper SSX”.  This will use present-day technology to provide a mid-mass platform of around 35Kg with a target payload of approx 20Kg.

At the point when we initiate the first-build process we will be opening our SEIS funding scheme and releasing some equity. Please contact us to find out more about this.

It is inevitable that from this point, we will only be able to keep our community of interest informed in general terms for reasons of commercial and industrial confidentiality.  The growth in the market for civil UAV systems is now projected to be 15% per year over the next five years – with a focus on surveying.

We intend to exploit our advantages in VTOL and higher mass-carry capability across a number of market sectors and we are building new partnerships in Scotland, the UK and across the globe to generate pre-sales.  There is good progress in this regard.

If you would like to know more about the project and funding opportunities, please contact us through this web site.

Skyhopper Outreach Team – Feb 2018.

Sky Hopper and Relief Operations

As the islands of the Caribbean continue to do battle with horrendous weather and the damage it is causing to their communities, the Sky Hopper team have been analysing the role of UAVs in these events.

We have produced a new white paper examining the potential for using Sky Hopper as a rapid relief system.  In it we use the examples of Barbuda and Anguila to identify the parameters that would govern UAV use.

The results are interesting; it would be possible to produce a comprehensive survey of either of the islands within a day. The data from this would be imported into advanced information systems capable of administering the stratification and delivery of material supply across the islands.  With its 100Kg payload, Sky Hopper would be able to deliver thousands of kilograms of relief aid very rapidly.

A follow up exercise to bring essential infrastructure sub-assembly components into the field would have a similar beneficial effect. As so often with engineered systems, even slight damage to small parts can bring an electricity, water or phone system down.  Sky Hoppers tasked to specific locations with specific parts could, we believe, reduce repair times rapidly and set communities on a course back towards normality.

We are additionally convinced that the presence of multiple Sky Hoppers engaged in multiple missions in the sky would have a considerable morale boosting effect on local populations – supporting the efforts of the administrating authorities attempting to control and assure against anxiety or fear.

You can read the white paper here.  You are free to download it and disseminate it as you wish.

 

Security from day one

A number of people have asked the Sky Hopper team what we will do about security so that operators will not abuse our vehicle’s capabilities.  It’s a good question, but one to which we think we have some answers.  (We would not be over-cocky on this, we have to innovate here too.)

We see two security issues. The first is abuse through external agents trying to capture, control or otherwise interfere with the vehicle technically. The second, is abuse through mis-use of the vehicle, for example carrying a crate load of grenades and dropping them on a village.

The answer to both is to build in security from day one. In the same way that manned aircraft cockpit doors are now locked and secured and built to a standard, Sky Hoppers will have to have locked cargo, secured operations and be built to a standard that builds in risk management from the start of construction.

Without giving away too many secrets, our approach also involves two other layers of security. The first is within the design of our autonomous systems. While a Sky Hopper will not be sentient, it will be able to self-diagnose to such an extent that it will refuse to fly if it detects that it is being tasked to perform operations that are not conducive to human safety.  Artificial intelligence and advanced algorithms that use a full suite of detect and avoid sensing solutions both externally and internally within the vehicle will make this possible.

The second layer involves an encrypted overlayer in communications that requires a Sky Hopper to perform in a way expected of its operators and, probably, the operations administration community.  Think of this like a referee in a football match. For as long as the rules of the game are being followed, any amount of diverse play is allowed, but if the rules are being broken, a foul is called and the game stopped.

We foresee every Sky Hopper having a default and secure aero-park to which it will return when its administrating agency demands it, taking control out of the hands of its usual operator.  This is no different from any intruder aircraft being asked to follow an interdiction jet fighter to a dispersal airport.  The question then arises as to who the interdiction administrators will be. Well, we propose Scotland should be the headquarters of this policing mechanism.  Prestwick’s Oceanic air traffic control already looks after trans-Atlantic flights.  At root, we are honest and capable, and few in the world would expect a professional Jock to go out of control and support death and mayhem.  We’d nut ya … ya bass.

Please support our project with a donation.

 

 

More than surveying

There’s an interesting report in the drone press about a company in Oxford who are offering not only to survey a forest but also help replant it from the air using drones.  See http://www.dronethusiast.com/drones-can-save-entire-forest-sky/.

Now this is interesting for us, because within our group of associates we have a soil and mining surveys specialist and an environmental sciences group. Both have provided us with examples for the use of autonomous systems to do more than simple surveying.  The Oxford group back this up.

The reality of surveys is that they are more than just monitoring. Surveying coasts, forests, soils and tundra, along with wildlife usually needs serial time series data, and it also often needs equipment drop offs or even interventions as in the above which bring change to the surveyed territory.  For example, if you are monitoring a flood plain, it;s good to know the extent of the flood, but if you can deliver equipment to monitor the change in flood conditions that adds real value. In addition, if the flood is continuing because water pumps have failed, deliver new parts to get those going again can save lives and property.

The VTOL capability of Sky Hopper, carrying masses a lot greater than a bag of seeds, opens up a swathe of new opportunities for environmental and infrastructure management.  This is why we focus so much on the commercial futures of “droning” rather than simply drone vehicles.

If when you read this you too can see these futures please consider helping us with a donation – it’s easy and we reward those with vision – please go now to http://bitly.com/skyhopper.

Coastal monitoring

A great deal of publicity has been given to the emerging survey sector using drones as workhorses.  Early adoption of these technologies has brought forward the first commercial revenue stream for a number of operators, with infrastructure inspections a frequent task.

The Sky Hopper team has been looking further into the future and we now have a number of interesting contacts and associates who are looking at the potential of “droning” operations on a regular basis to enhance knowledge and understanding of coastal regions.

We are lucky in that our Scottish home base provides easy access to a very long length of coastline. (Scotland in fact has a longer coastline than England).  But think about it, if you are proposing to survey a coast using line of sight operations that potential is highly limited.  You could spend half a day or more getting to a survey site, and you probably would not be able to design a simple pass-by survey line; you would likely be limited to some rather haphazard flying about attempting to collect photographs.

How much better to use a mid-mass vehicle with flight durations upwards of half an hour across extended cross-range survey vectors.  That’s what Sky Hopper offers.  If our cargo module is a reconnaissance version, we could do anything from counting seals, through plotting kelp beds or algae, to tracking oil spills or plotting serial data about levels of localised pollution.

The drone industry is coming of age, but it needs a platform for more extensive surveys with better flight path control and sensing capabilities, including on board processing to collect very large amounts of data.  While we see Sky Hopper as a logistical platform, we are not blind to its potential as an enhanced global survey platform.  Of course, we can also combine the two roles, using its carrying power to drop off point based survey equipment across terrain of interest – and then pick it up again at a later date.  In difficult to access areas, that could reduce access time and costs by an order of magnitude.

Please help us with a donation to discover more ways that Sky Hopper can become a truly commercialised system platform for global good.

Civil missions must lead

Here is a near military usage of a mid-mass drone akin (although different) to our Sky Hopper vehicle www.skyhopper.co.uk. It’s notable that the developers are already looking at roles beyond defence purposes and into the multiple missions that such vehicles can support. This is why IT’S TIME the UK gets into the industry on the civil aviation side, something we intend to make happen through Sky Hopper. It would be a shame if the future of UAVs is driven entirely by military initiatives.

https://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/paris-leonardo-works-to-clear-falco-for-non-segrega-438583/

Behind the Sky Hopper initiative lies a commitment to social change and environmental improvement. We are dedicated to the idea that “droning” can do good.

Working with regulators

As the UAV industry develops the safe control of operators and their operations is coming rapidly to the fore.  All operators are going to be duty bound to have a fully audited and certified safety case that makes operational risk management processes crystal clear.

An important contribution to these developments is JARUS – the Joint Aviation Authorities on Unmanned Systems – which is developing specific operational procedures for UAV operators.

The Sky Hopper team is well aware and staying up to date with these developments. What is important for the UK is that we get involved in how this regulation develops; these procedures are, today,  based on working documents that are adjusting to events at a fast pace.

You can see the latest news on these matters at http://rps-info.com/blog/notification-of-sora-publication/.  As always the report is full of endless acronyms, but that’s quite normal for this sort of regulatory framework development.

 

Electric power futures

The Sky Hopper team have known for some years that electric power in transport systems is coming of age.  It is good to see that the UK government is catching up with its new vision of ground transport being powered largely by electric machines in the near future.

No-one, however, should under-estimate the development required to increase power densities to the level that makes them practical.  Engineers still have a way to go.

The secret to success will lie both in underlying chemistry improvements and in the small incremental steps that are used by engineers to enhance any system across all its aspects.  As the motoring journalist James May has pointed out the Model T Ford is recognisably a car, but it is a long long way removed from the Ford Mondeo of today.

One of the drivers of the Sky Hopper project is precisely this incremental innovation process. Our vision is that our vehicle will be the first of many, beginning with a demonstrator that proves the operational potential, but then being improved again and again and again; making it lighter, faster, with extended duration, higher mass carrying capacity and, of course, commercial usefulness that adds value.

We are just about to go into our major launch phase for funding. Please take the time to look over our site at www.skyhopper.co.uk and understand our thinking. We in Britain have to push out as fast as we can on projects like this. If we do not we will be left behind by others with more imagination and talent.  Success breeds success, but you have to generate the initial innovation to get onto that virtuous cycle.

So, once again, please help us with our funding. Why not send us a donation. Or contact us about sponsorship … it’s time we did this …

Sky Hopper flight control variant build underway

As one of our initial steps in proving our design, we are building scaled versions of Sky Hopper that will be used to verify third fan flight control parameters.  We call this the FCV (flight control variant)

FCV1 was constructed some months ago in order to encapsulate the first version of our flight control software.  It worked well and we achieved a stable hover with good controllability in yaw and pitch. However, this initial variant did not attempt to produce the empirical data we need to analyse our control inputs realistically and apply that data to the full scale demonstrator design. The purpose was solely to identify how well we could link control inputs to airframe configuration changes in the form of linear and/or progressive changes.

We are now building FCV2 which will allow us to generate this data in a specific set of flight trials. Essentially we will be laying down reference points for control capabilities in flight in hover and flight in cruise, while leaving the intermediate envelope of transition flight for later trials.  This should allow us to impute stall points in velocity and alpha angles that will inform later VTOL transition flight trials.

This early work is still self-funded, please consider sending us a donation to help us move onwards to our full-scale demonstrator construction stage. 

Sky Hopper project launches in West of Scotland

The Sky Hopper project had its formal launch in Scotland on Thursday 15th June.  A launch meeting took place at the University of the West of Scotland in front of a group of businesses, business support specialists, third sector educators and aerospace specialists.

Eben Wilson, Dr Richard Brown and Fred Gorrie explained the project focus, the approach involving the building of three demonstrators and wider industrial intent.

This event marks the start of our wider outreach program to the aerospace and drone enthusiast community in the UK and across the world.

Please sign up to hear more about what we are doing. And come back to visit our site as we will be posting to this blog a lot more from here.

AND don’t forget! Tell people about us and ask them to consider helping us with a donation!