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Sky Hopper News

Sky Hopper’s first outing

The Sky Hopper team recently  took their Engineering and Structures Demonstrator to Glasgow and wowed an audience of marine biologists at the Technology and Innovation Centre.

Our purpose was to engage with potential collaborators for first flight operations which we plan in 2019.  We made a lot of interesting contacts and proved to ourselves that a mid-mass platform has potential as a load carrier or a survey support device.

Sky Hopper ACD-200S on its stand

 Prior to departure from our workshop

This was the first public outing of our innovative platform. As we enter the dark winter period, we continue to develop the platform. We will shortly have a fully detailed CAD model of the vehicle that can inform batch manufacturing.  We are also now engaged in the development of our electrical and avionics demonstrator.

We will be releasing 30% of the equity in the venture through this winter. Please contact us if you want to know more. 

As always we have to maintain a certain amount of confidentiality in our news. This is particularly so now that we have an actual initial vehicle system. Please accept that information on this website will inevitably be broad-brush only. If you are interested in what we are doing and are a potential investor please contact us. 

Sky Hopper® lands at MASTS in Glasgow

On 31st October we are taking Sky Hopper® to the annual conference of the Marine Association of Scientists and Technologists of Scotland.

This will be the platform’s first outing in public. We wanted this to be in the West of Scotland where our project is located.

The vehicle we are taking is our structures and engineering demonstrator which is now complete.  Our purpose is to speak to delegates about the role Sky Hopper® can play in their professional work.  Four hundred delegates are expected from organisations worldwide.

This is an exercise of market exploration, identifying demand and segmenting it into areas of need and interest.  We will report back here after the event.  We will also be making public the first pictures of our  vehicle.  Up until now we have had to retain confidentiality to preserve the technical details of the interior structure. Over the past weeks Sky Hopper® has been given a skin and is looking very much like the pictures you see on this web site.

The team, especially the senior technicians, Dave and Leon, are very excited to have reached this point.

Beyond Visual Line of Site (BVLOS) conference at RAeS London

The Sky Hopper team sent a representative to an important conference on “beyond visual line of site” – BVLOS – operations held at the Royal Aeronautical Society in Mayfair early in October.

BVLOS is a future goal of unmanned aerial systems, but to get there from where the industry is today requires a lot of work and co-ordination between industry players and the regulators. Both groups were at the conference and it was a chance to discuss what needs to be done and share ideas with those regulators.

Everyone agrees that BVLOS can come in time, but that new operating processes for UAV systems have to be evolved to allow safe operations to be conducted.  There is no specific barrier to moving from remotely piloted aerial systems (RPAS) to BVLOS except that risk management processes have yet to be developed so that a safety case can be made to make such flights. Those processes already exist in an early form and the Sky Hopper project is known to the regulators as to how we will approach making our case to be allowed to begin and then expand the scope of operations.

We’ll inevitably have to start low and slow, and then go higher and faster .. but we will also be creating a thoroughly documented risk management approach to define our safety case. And from our base in the West of Scotland we have easy access to more remote areas, empty of human beings where we can begin to make that case robust for more adventurous operations through time.

From the point of view of the industry, the most important thing today is that unauthorised flying that puts bystanders in danger must be avoided at all cost. So far, the regulators have taken an enlightened liberal view of what is allowed, but if there are any incidents that are a result of bad risk planning and sloppy operational practice, the emerging industrial development in UAV systems could be set back for a long period.

Summer 2018 update

For the past four months, the Sky Hopper team have been working on our first demonstrator of our SSX model.  We opened our first-build workshop in Ayrshire in the middle of June.

The purpose of this first platform build has been to:

  • Develop standardised manufacturing methods using alloy that will allow us to create a strong core for the vehicle.
  • Develop our initial CAD drawings into a production toolset that will allow us to build multiple vehicles at reasonable cost.
  • Train new technical tasks in the process of building Sky Hopper vehicles.

In the process we have also set off our production process that matches 3-d printing techniques with carbon fibre component development. The issue here is to match our vehicle’s structural core through hard points to the sub-assemblies that make up the rest of the vehicle.  This requires locating those hard points and working on the stress and strain calculations that ensure the platform’s forces are contained in the flight regime.

We will update this report shortly as we complete a follow-up effort underway now to audit all the component parts of the engineering platform and revise our CAD system design to meet those changes we have made through the prototyping process.

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.