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Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs)

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, also known as Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) by the FAA, have gotten a lot of press in recent years due largely to military needs, but in reality they’ve been with us for decades – in the form of drones. The difference today is not only in performance and complexity, but in the fact that many UAVs can now fly autonomously using pre-programmed flight plans.

In addition to military missions ranging from reconnaissance to attack, the peacetime use of UAVs is also growing. It is much, much cheaper to survey an oil pipeline with a UAV than with a helicopter and crew, for example. Search and Rescue (SAR) operations are becoming another important area where UAVs are being called into service. Overall, the global UAV market is expected to exceed seven billion dollars in 2011.

The mission of the Internal Wing Aircraft (IWA) company since its inception more than twenty years ago has been to revolutionize the business of flying by building aircraft based on its patented lifting technology. (See Technology for more of the story.) But building an airplane based on a new technology faces two huge obstacles: it is incredibly expensive to build, test and certify any new aircraft; and when a game-changing technology is involved there can be great resistance from people and organizations with vested interests in existing technologies. (The story of the Tucker Sedan is a case in point.) What would any quintessentially American entrepreneur living on a shoestring do in a situation like that? Sell their patents and ideas? No. Start small, build what you can, and grow as you can. And never give up the dream. In other words, the essence of what it used to mean to be American.

Over the last fifteen years IWA has gone from hand-held gliders, which of course flew better than any gliders ever, to RC (radio-controlled) aircraft, to MAVs (Micro Aerial Vehicles), and today they’re at the UAV stage of growth with a company dedicated to this effort: Supero UAS. For information and images on their latest UAV and the stages recently preceding it, please see immediately below. For the “early days” of RC and MAV, scroll down to the next section.

Our Original UAV Proof-of-Concept (POC), from 2011: the Hawkmoth 1

Hawkmoth ready for takeoff

Specifications:

7′ long, 5′ wingspan
30kt wind capable
2kg payload (with existing motors)
Flight time: dependent on battery selected
Blown* system is NVTOL (Near-Vertical Takeoff and Landing)
Un-blown system is STOL (Short Takeoff and Landing)

[* “Blown” in this context means air, under pressure, forced out of a slot in the trailing edge of the lead wing, similar in concept to the blown flaps that NASA was working on in the 1950s and ’60s – only much improved.]

The Hawkmoth 1 is currently being retrofitted, but for a full presentation on it in its original incarnation, containing many of the images below in addition to supporting technologies and previous work, please download the IWA_Hawkmoth_NV-UAS. (5.5MB PDF) This presentation points the way to the future of flight, in more ways than one.

Images:

IWA Hawkmoth

Preflight

IWA Hawkmoth

Takeoff

IWA Hawkmoth

Landing

IWA Hawkmoth

Robert Carr & the IWA Hawkmoth

IWA Hawkmoth

Men at work

Our latest Hawkmoth: the Hawkmoth 60 TE

(AKA the “Fire Service Plane”, because of the strong interest already shown from fire departments.)

Specifications:

5′ wingspan
Twin electric pusher prop motors
30-50kt wind capable
5kg+ payload
Flight time: 1 hour+
NVTOL (Near-Vertical Takeoff and Landing)

The Hawkmoth 60 TE

The Hawkmoth 60 TE

The Hawkmoth 60 TE

Hawkmoth 60 TE - on the ramp

The Hawkmoth 60 TE

Hawkmoth 60 TE

The Hawkmoth 60 TE

The Hawkmoth 60 TE - first flight!

In-flight video from the Hawkmoth 60 TE

One frame from the initial in-flight video; note the shadow at the bottom right.

New video! For a true “bird’s-eye view” check out this video footage, shot from a recent IWA UAV prototype.

Click to watch the IWA UAV onboard aerial video.

Earlier IWA UAV Prototypes

Images:

An IWA grouping

IWA: Variations on a theme

IWA TD1 Twin-prop aircraft

IWA TD1 Twin-prop aircraft

IWA TD1 Twin-prop aircraft

IWA TD1 Twin-prop aircraft

IWA UAV aerial

IWA UAV aerial

IWA UAV aerial

IWA UAV aerial

IWA UAV aerial

IWA UAV aerial

Videos:

TD1tp hand launch (:28)

Test flight of TD1 twin-prop; landing at foot (:30)

Test flight of IWA AD1 (1:38)

“Diamond Girl” UAS Prototype IWA/MUAS (5:51)

The Early Days: from RC to MAV

A Micro Aerial Vehicle (MAV) is simply a small UAV; current designs have wingspans down to six inches (15 cm) or so, though development is underway to build insect-sized MAVs. Like their bigger brothers, though, MAVs can fly autonomously or under remote control.

Some still images of IWA work on MAVs in the past are below, followed by two videos of flying MAV prototypes. It’s a small step from radio-controlled (RC) aircraft to MAVs… for the right design.

Images:

IWA MAV

MAV prototypes

MAV saucer prototype

MAV saucer prototype

MAV saucer CAD

MAV saucer CAD

IWA Butterfly MAV

IWA Butterfly MAV prototype

IWA MAV Moth Prototype

IWA Moth MAV Prototype

IWA MAV

IWA MAV

IWA MAV motor

IWA MAV motor

IWA MAV Design

IWA MAV CAD Design

Videos:

“Mako Jet” Micro IWA UAS Demo, Hong Kong (1:23)

“Viper Jet” Micro IWA UAS (4:00) (One of our better videos: hand-launched, hand-landed; 4.5 stars.)

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