Construction Today - September/October 2017 - 21
TOP FLIGHT TECHNOLOGIES
extensive payloads. However in certain
applications - such as power line and
pipeline inspections, or perimeter security
monitoring - the more costly maintenance
and operations make drones a more cost
Top Flight's newest innovation, the industrial-strength Airborg H8 10K, is a larger
drone (2 meters in diameter tip to tip) that
can perform bigger jobs, and address challenges of battery drones and maintenance
associated with all gasoline drones and
traditional piloted aircraft. Soft-launched in
May, it is a 10,000-watt hybrid gas-to-electric
drone, which allows for more than threehour flight times.
Additionally, it is light enough to fly more
than 100 miles, while strong enough to carry
up to 21 pounds of payload.
"It uses readily available gasoline to generate the power that drives the lift motors, keeps
backup batteries charged, and powers all
onboard electronics," Phan explains. "Hybrid
engines do not require between-flight recharging of batteries. You need only refill the
fuel, just like a car, and immediately fly again."
With its hybrid electric design, the Air-
borg's parts are minimal, maintenance is straightforward and flight
control can be semi- or fully autonomous, with missions developed
first and tested in a Top Flight developed simulator.
"For example, if you were doing an inspection around an oil refinery you could fly it in the test simulator," Polo says. "All you have
to do is program it ahead of time, and the Airborg will repeat the
mission hundreds of times."
Top Flight's engineering team is comprised largely of MIT PhDs
and engineers who have patented the miniaturization of the hybrid
power system for drones. "This overcomes the formidable challenges
of extensive heat and vibration inherent in high energy-density
power systems," Phan says.
The Airborg contains full flight control and telemetry, which can
be pre-programmed for missions and auto-safety. It also has the flexibility to have other commonly requested features added to address
real-world commercial UAV industry-specific applications, including
enhanced computing, sensing and communications payloads.
"Just as the innovation in apps has taken to the smartphone,
third-party developers are readying cameras, search lights, special
cargo devices and specialized sensors that detect movement, measure heat, moisture and avoid collisions," Phan says.
Top Flight operates in what it calls "agile aerospace 2.0," the space between ground level and 400 feet above the ground in elevation. According to Phan, flying closer to the ground means greatly enhanced
imaging and sensing resolutions, as well as other capabilities such
Top Flight flies its drones
between ground level and up
to 400 feet in elevation.
SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2017 CONSTRUCTION-TODAY.COM