Unmanned Systems Technology 028 | ecoSUB Robotics AUVs I ECUs focus I Space vehicles insight I AMZ Driverless gotthard I InterDrone 2019 report I ATI WAM 167-BB I Video systems focus I Aerdron HL4 Herculift

92 A lthough companies across various industries are working on heavy-lift UAVs for different consumer applications and payload weight classes, one company based in Spain has developed an aircraft specifically to work as a multi-role testbed for heavy payloads (up to 11.9 kg). It is aimed particularly at aerospace companies, researchers and security agencies. Notably the payloads are mounted on top of the vehicle, the HL4 Herculift, as opposed to underneath. This was done to provide an unobstructed view upwards for comms and inspection purposes, and to ease payload maintenance and exchanges. The HL4 was originally commissioned by a company called SENER Group, which needed an aerial testbed capable of carrying up to 8 kg of experimental comms payloads. The UAV has a large, top-mounted payload area with a universal mounting system to enable experiments to be swapped out easily. Origins One of SENER’s activities is to develop comms equipment for satellites and other aerospace and infrastructure projects. For that it needed an aerial testbed platform that could stay on station accurately at various altitudes. “The problem was that there weren’t any UAVs on the market that serve as a testbed for companies or scientists to use,” says Marcos Fabian, founder and CEO of Aerdron. “Most UAVs are more focused on photography or carrying some type of gimballed camera payload. “SENER wanted something that could fly any manner of experimental payload, with integration being a simple plug-and-play with a few screws. Also, it wanted a high- grade engineering solution rather than something designed and built to be mass- produced at the lowest possible cost. “I didn’t feel comfortable modifying a mass-market consumer UAV to carry up to 12 kg of payload, because it could easily fail and someone could get hurt, so we started work on a bespoke solution from the outset.” The main idea behind the HL4’s development cycle was therefore to design a structure that would have the lowest possible ratio of aircraft mass to payload capacity, in order to generate the highest payload-carrying capabilities in its class (less than 25 kg MTOW) to meet SENER’s requirements without being distracted by concerns about the craft’s aesthetics. For a heavy payload that needs testing, this UAV could be just the thing. Rory Jackson reports Test cases October/November 2019 | Unmanned Systems Technology The HL4 Herculift originated from a commission for a lightweight heavy-lift UAV for trialling experimental payloads (pixellated by request) and missions (All images courtesy of Aerdron)