Notes, 9/16

September 15, 2016      Pork Lewis

I once read; “To succeed in business you first need a product people want.” Wow! What could make more sense than that?

Well, after a long career of building sales organizations, I did know, one can sometimes encourage that “want”, even for products not necessarily needed. But what a bonus to start with something that people actually do want, or even need! And that’s what hooked me on an idea that would become, Aerial Robotic Systems.

It was a typical Saturday night conversation. A friend and I were discussing the cleverness of another friend, Noel. He built experimental airplanes. He was an engineer, inventor, test pilot, flight instructor and manufacturer, but not a businessman. He could design and make anything, but readily admitted his weakness in earning a good return from his efforts. He wanted nothing to do with running a business, marketing, sales. He just liked making things to fill what he saw as a need. And he saw a huge upcoming need.

Noel talked about the current craze for drones. So many were being sold and flown that the FAA was overwhelmed. They were tasked with regulating drone flights just as they did normal aircraft flights. But drones were so popular, simple to operate, so cheap to buy and fly, that manufacturers could hardly keep up with demand. Sure, some people said they were intrusive with their eye-in-the-sky cameras. And others complained about them being a danger to normal aircraft and the public in general. But the fascination was too strong and too wide spread. Drones were a new technology that anyone could acquire and enjoy. There would be no holding them back.

However, Noel said, mostly, they are just fun to fly. Sure, some of them can carry a camera, or light weight sensors, and that can be useful, but they are hindered by the short flight duration and limited lift capabilities inherent in the design used by all current manufacturers. Noel said he could build a drone capable of actually doing useful work. His design would lift five hundred pounds and fly for hours, not minutes, and do so at a lower cost than any current technology allowed. It didn’t take us long to see the potential of such a product.

So I met with Noel. And met some more. And eventually the list of case uses for the drones he envisioned filled a page. Wow! Here was a product people actually needed. Actually wanted!

Aerial Robotic Systems and Workhorse UAVs

Long before the Wright brothers man was experimenting with flight. The idea of soaring like a bird is magical! What child has not laughed joyously at a paper plane making a simple flight? The quest to fly continues today not only with manned flights into outer space, but also, albeit in spirit only, with unique flying machines such as today’s Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, (some of which will undoubtedly, eventually, carry humans).

The development of UAVs is only now beginning and already we see enormous progress, and uses too numerous to have been imagined just a few years ago. The FAA is struggling to create regulations both allowing development and controlling the dangers of operating so many vehicles in our air space. Eventually this will surely be sorted out. Holding back progress has always been a fool’s mission. Very early on the “horseless carriage” was seen as a devil machine by many. So drone development will go forward and drones will take their place in the modern world.

Today’s advanced avionics have made building a drone fairly simple. However, very few of today’s drones can actually do more than carry a small camera and/or a few sensors. Mostly, they’re just a lot of fun to fly. The limiting factors for drones are lift capacity [payload], and flight duration. Payload is a product of engine power. More powerful engines require larger and heavier batteries. And research into lighter more powerful batteries has so far been unable to meet this need, meaning drones are typically able to lift only a few pounds more than the vehicle’s own weight. And also because of this, battery power between recharges, thus flight duration, is measured in a few minutes.

Some time ago our chief engineer was approached by a representative of the Bangladesh Navy, to develop a particular type drone. We did not win that bid, but the seed was planted. More recently, ARS funders challenged us to dramatically overcome the limiting factors of UAVs; payload and flight duration; to design and prove an inexpensive unmanned seriously heavy- lift, vertical take- off and landing [VTOL] aircraft.

Today, after countless hours in research and experimentation, we have a line of just such UAVs. They are capable of all the missions listed below and many more. They are extremely robust, built in the USA to MIL SPEC standards. They all have heavy lift capability and long flight durations. The first model is the ARS-QT, a mighty drone suitable for large serious missions. That led immediately to development of smaller models, the ARS-LT [film link] and ARS-MLT. All can be considered flying “trucks” designed to perform whatever mission the operator requires. They have lift capacities of fifty to five hundred pounds, and more. They will fly for four plus hours at speeds of 40 to perhaps 100 mph. They can be accessorized as per our customer’s requirements.

For instance, our system naturally produces electricity, but if more is needed, it can be produced. We can provide specialty gimbals to accommodate any type or size camera, sensor, cargo or weapons package. We can provide apparatus for resupply missions, spray fittings for agricultural uses, and extend the standard flight duration time. We can even make the vehicle supernatant. Briefly, tell us what you want your drone to do, and we will build it accordingly, or not.

On the drawing board we have a super-fast tilt-wing model and a much smaller model, the ARS-LE, powered by electric motors and designed primarily for long-flight duration surveillance missions.