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80 F rench company Heliceo has developed a technology platform that condenses 70% of the operation of an unmanned craft into a single unit. This has allowed it to provide a wide range of vehicles with a common design, from rotor and fixed-wing craft to VTOL and even marine systems. Heliceo essentially provides mapping and data services, but to do that it needs a range of different craft. It has therefore built what it calls the DroneBox, to minimise the amount of additional development required to deploy a new unmanned platform. The DroneBox combines navigation and control systems, and allows Heliceo to provide products and applications ranging from terrestrial survey through bathymetry to aerial survey. One of the core platforms is the FoxyPro6. This is a VTOL system that combines a vertical take-off rotor with fixed-wing operation. It has a maximum load capacity of 2 kg, can carry an HD sensor and has more than an hour of in- flight battery life, allowing it to scan up to 400 ha (988 acres) in a single mission. While a modular system offers advantages for constructing a range of different unmanned platforms quickly and easily, there are potential drawbacks. For example, a mapping mission using a 24 MP camera for high-resolution imaging also requires precision geo- referencing of each image. That means the camera system and the controller – in this case the DroneBox – have to work together effectively in real time. A modular system also has to avoid paying a penalty in extra interface boards or connectors that would increase the vehicle’s weight and reduce its mission time. Nick Flaherty reports on a modular system that provides mapping functionality for a range of unmanned craft One size fits all February/March 2018 | Unmanned Systems Technology The DroneBox is designed to minimise the amount of development needed to deploy new craft (Courtesy of Heliceo)