Unmanned Systems Technology 038 l Skyeton Raybird-3 l Data storage l Sea-Kit X-Class USV l USVs insight l Spectronik PEM fuel cells l Blue White Robotics UVIO l Antennas l AUVSI Xponential Virtual 2021 report

32 airbag is also deployed from the fuselage to cushion it during touchdown. Knyazhenko continues, “We actually have two independently connected servos at the cap – only one is needed to open it – and a small redundant battery pack inside gives each of them an independent power supply, to eliminate the chances that the parachute system could fail. To date we’ve never had to perform a hard landing.” As discussed, however, the company plans to operate autonomous, persistent swarms of Raybirds. To do that, it is developing an automated LARS similar in concept to that of Zipline’s snap catch (see UST 21, August/September 2018), with a trapezoidal metallic frame atop a platform holding an electro-motorised and swinging shaft. The shaft is designed in principle to catch a Raybird from the air by the tail and stow it hanging downwards, before inductively charging it and spinning upwards to relaunch it (with some automated flight checks happening in between over a radio link), without the need for any personnel nearby. The software algorithms for this system have largely been defined. For recovery, the Raybird-3’s autopilot will first request permission from the nearest LARS platform – if occupied, that platform sends the UAV to another. Once a free LARS is found, the UAV approaches its GNSS coordinate on its leeward side, and wind speeds and directions are estimated using a weather station on the LARS. Once the Raybird-3 is within 300- 500 m of the LARS, a laser emitter on the latter is activated to guide the former (potentially via a photodiode and a microcontroller for added flight precision) along the right trajectory towards the catcher. A panel extending down from the Raybird ensures safe and secure engagement between the two systems, with the engine switching off at an undetermined distance before engaging to prevent a hard impact. To relaunch, the platform will first rotate horizontally to the upwind direction for maximising initial lift. The Raybird’s engine will then switch on as the shaft quickly rotates upwards, the combined energy of the two providing sufficient force and speed for take-off. The shaft then releases the catcher panel when the optimal take-off angle is reached. Using automated charging via the shaft (rather than refuelling) means the swarms will use an all-electric version of the Raybird, and the company confirms that this next generation of the UAV is in the works. “It was a really complicated project,” Stepura notes. “It’s fairly well-known that DARPA and Aurora Flight Sciences tried to achieve this kind of system with their SideArm project. They spent $25 million and had many talks with NASA, but their solution wasn’t taken up in the end. “Our system is currently in trials, we have a patent on it, and we’ve consulted with DARPA to figure out how to get it right. We hope to have it working by the end of this year. “We’ll keep developing it to optimise the aircraft and ground platform as much as possible. By selling only data, not vehicles, we alone bear the cost of keeping our Raybirds and operations as reliable and cost-effective as possible. From that standpoint, creating autonomous swarms to survey huge areas makes the most sense for growing our business.” Conclusion Skyeton intends to continue its r&d into fully automated and mechanised solutions to support the use of its UAVs as an end- to-end solution for persistent wide-area surveys, and plans to implement them for its customers in the near future. June/July 2021 | Unmanned Systems Technology Dossier | Skyeton Raybird-3 While the Raybird-3 is optimised for launching by catapult, developing an all-electric Raybird with fully automated launch and recovery is next on the company’s list By selling only data we alone bear the cost of keeping our operations as reliable as possible, so using swarms to survey huge areas makes most sense