Uncrewed Systems Technology 049 - April/May 2023

92 I n the past 2 years there has been a growth in uncrewed systems designed for autonomous operations in enclosed, indoor spaces, where GNSS cannot be relied on for navigation. Although SLAM (often the key to indoor autonomous navigation) might once have been confined to high-endmilitary systems, it is now in use on such a range of commercial uncrewed systems that vehicles are now able to delve safely into tighter andmore confined quarters than ever. The Dronut X1 UAV represents an optimal design for inspecting indoor or otherwise GNSS-denied locations. It is shaped as a duct, about 16 cm in diameter and 10 cm tall, and has two rotors shrouded by the duct with meshes at both ends, to prevent impacts of the blades against any surfaces or people. It has been developed by Boston- based Cleo Robotics, which was founded by CEO Omar Eleryan and CTO Simon Czarnota in 2017 to create a vehicle that could inspect confined spaces and potentially hazardous environments. Like many in the professional, high-end UAV space these days, Eleryan previously worked in the oil & gas industry, although he says aerospace is his passion. “During my time in oil & gas, however, I had to inspect underground tanks, which is a pretty awful job – you have to get into really dirty, dangerous types of environments – and I quickly noticed that most of that work was visual in nature, with engineers going in largely just to take a bunch of pictures and then inspect them afterwards,” he says. “So Simon and I thought, ‘Instead of sending people in to do this work, why not use robots: wouldn’t that make more sense from the safety and healthcare perspectives?’ We quickly realised though that existing robots don’t operate well in those kinds of environments. UGVs for instance can’t climb ladders or scaffolding, and most UAVs are too large or have exposed propellers, making them unsuitable.” Ducted aerial vehicles As it happened, part of Eleryan’s passion for aerospace was an interest in ducted aerial vehicles – not the quadrotor type, with four ducted fans, but a proposed design consisting purely of a duct with a fan rotor enclosed inside and the necessary electronics and control surfaces in the duct’s housing. As a possible point of reference, Reference Technologies’ Hummingbird XRP UAV ( UST 27, August/September April/May 2023 | Uncrewed Systems Technology Tight fit This duct-shaped UAV has been designed to inspect confined GNSS- denied spaces. Rory Jackson explains how it works