Issue 54 Uncrewed Sytems Technology Feb/Mar 2024 uWare uOne UUV l Radio and telemetry l Rheinmetall Canada medevacs l UUVs insight DelltaHawk engine l IMU focus l Skygauge in operation l CES 2024 report l Blueflite l Hypersonic flight

After touchdown, the battery can be removed and replaced by hand in a matter of seconds, the pre-flight steps can be repeated, and the UAV can launch again and continue measuring until the job is done. Operators, by convention, will also regularly inspect the UAV’s mechanics and their integrity during those brief landings, discerning for potential issues such as excess dirt or debris about the thrusters or servos, which could hinder performance. “Once that’s done, we pack up the drone, and we’re able to issue a report to the client. That’s more or less created automatically via our team, and it shows the client all the information on metal thickness on every point that has been measured, as well as an overall summary of the inspection and any points of concern detected within the structure,” Korol says. “Issuing data reports as a product of the overall uncrewed aerial solution [UAS] is commonplace across the UAV industry now, but one of the big differentiators we’ve tried to create with our reports is traceability. Inspections today are not very traceable. Like I said, reports often get lost purely through administrative error. “But our ultrasonic waveform scans, showing the full picture of what is inside the metal, are digitally recorded and made available so that inspectors can even go back and reinterpret the information, or cross-reference it with other information, at any time.” Future applications Looking to the future, Skygauge is eyeing three principal directions of technological development that it plans to pursue. The first is diversifying its UAS offerings into new applications, and accordingly, new payloads. “You can see fairly evidently that the bulk of work until now has been on the core technology behind the drone. It took us six years to go from building the first prototype to getting it to where it was successfully flying its first commercial application, but inside the last 12 months we’ve essentially optimised three new payloads. So that’s six years to go from zero applications to one, and then one year to go from one to four,” Korol summarises. “It solidifies our determination that this UAV design isn’t a one-trick pony or built too specialised into one niche. It’s really a modular design capable of taking on different applications.” Among the wider missions to be increasingly handled by Skygauge’s UAV are paint thickness inspections, for which one UAV has been sold to an unnamed South Korean client already (specifically for gauging paint on ship hulls). Others are scrubbing applications for removing rust from surfaces, as well as repainting and coating applications, which are currently under development in Skygauge’s laboratories. Going forwards, these alternate applications will include activities such as pressure washing, industrial welding, concrete inspections, and the application of protective coatings against threats such as lightning or corrosion, and other work traditionally done at height by human hands. Those types of mission, taking longer and requiring more weightlifting than ultrasonic inspections, are likely to make use of a tether and power converter for running power to the UAV from the grid, although Skygauge is also open to hybrid-electric or hydrogen fuel-cell power to enable the necessary lifting and endurance capacity. “It isn’t just work at height that we will be focused on,” says Korol. “We are also investigating strong possibilities to use our UAV in locations with confinedspace entries. On industrial sites, that means going into small manholes, tanks or places where oxygen is restricted. Inspecting those sorts of places is a hazard to human life, but it’s still done by hand.” Skygauge is confident of being able to send its UAV to perform such inspections. The main pillar of success in those applications will naturally be its software and reporting systems. This forms the second area of future technical development, as the company aims to provide a cloud-based storage and computing solution for clients. A robust cloud architecture would also enable a comprehensive fleet implementation and management system for industrial managers to remotely oversee their uncrewed inspection tools. “Customers could thereby have multiple Skygauge UAVs and multiple payloads, all centralised and scheduled through a single cloud-based piece of software, which could form their one point of contact with the product to really simplify everything from flight planning to reports and analyses,” Korol adds. “And, of course, enabling that simplification means taking the handson work out of flight preparations, so developing drone-in-a-box solutions for installations of UAVs as residents is definitely the last part of the puzzle. “That, along with more advanced computer vision for smarter flights through hazardous pipe- or pylon-heavy locations, and maybe the integration of mesh radios so they can communicate and coordinate together as a swarm, will really achieve the uncrewed workforce in the sky that we’re envisioning.” 101 Uncrewed Systems Technology | February/March 2024 Skygauge UAV Dimensions: 90 cm x 90 cm x 40 cm MTOW: 7 kg Payload capacity: 2 kg Endurance: 10 minutes Operating flight speed: 2 m/s (1 m/s in ascent and descent) Maximum flight speed: 5 m/s Maximum thrust: 14 kg of force Battery capacity: 200 Wh Key specifications