Commaris Promises 3+ Hours With ‘Seeker’ VTOL UAV
Mr. Fred Beddard, Director of Sales Marketing & Flight Operations at Commaris spoke with us midway through AUVSI2022 about the ‘Seeker’. Its mission is those applications that require a long flight time, 3+ hours of flight time, carries a payload of 6.5 to 7.0 lbs, basically law enforcement, surveillance, inspection pipeline, rail line, oil, gas line and so on. Search and rescue is another application, as is agriculture, where they have multispectral cameras to do plant health; they can scan thousands of acres of farmland in just a few hours. Additionally, in the area of forestry and fire fighting, our drone can go up and surveil, use infrared to look for hotspots, and then we go up during an actual fire with video, and have live video. Commaris’ Seeker also has pitot and barometric pressure sensors which can collect data that can be fed down so you can predict where a fire is going.
Mr. Beddard stated that every one [of those missions] has a unique requirement, in the sense that it: 1) [Seeker] needs to be in the air for a long time, 2) it needs to fly fairly fast [Seeker cruises at 45 mph and has a top speed of 62 mph], and 4) extremely reliable. When asked how much time the Seeker has flown, Mr. Beddard said that they have put about 200 hours on the unit, have 0 failures, considering they’ve been flying it at their flight operations center in Las Vegas, Nevada, with temperatures up to 114 degrees.
In response to the ‘piloting’ of the drone, Mr. Beddard added “it’s not fully autonomous, it is remotely piloted. There is no joystick with flying this particular aircraft, everything is pre-programmed then, based on a flight plan, and the pilot monitors the flight on the computer”. If there’s any changes or deviations required, they touch the screen to move the aircraft, perhaps put it into a loiter position, change the flight path, make it land, or return to base. All of those things you would normally do with a joystick are all done through a touch screen.
When asked about the future of the platform, Mr. Beddard responded “the big challenge for everyone is BVLOS (beyond visual line of sight). I’ve got an aircraft that can fly almost 200 miles on a battery charge, fly 60 miles an hour, and it can’t do that because, you know, BVLOS (Beyond Visual Line of Sight). It’s the technology to get past that, so I think, there’s two paths: 1) you can load this down with technology, it reduces my payload, increases my cost dramatically, or you can look at some new tech. That’s why we’re here” or, 2) “you can look at type certification. So if you go into type certification, you know all the BVLOS goes away, yeah the pilot is not just a 107, he’s a real pilot big deal”. He concluded that, “until we see something in the next year or so from the FAA, to say this is where BVLOS is going to be, so we know where our money is going, we know how much we’re going to spend, and when we can have a product. Type certification, I think, is still on the table as a consideration”.
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Originally published at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yAEdHCbjsHE