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

109 unanswered questions, but the first and most important was how seriously you take the idea, and whether you want to quit your job and do it,” Noppel says. An important factor in making that decision was an early confidence boost in the form of an investment from renowned startup “accelerator” Techstars, he recalls, which encouraged him to set up Blueflite in January 2018, and also helped to set its direction. “The first couple of months were mainly about figuring out where to play in the space and we landed on making drones,” he says. “Our talent is more in tech than operations, and we also think it’s the tech part that creates the longterm value, so the OEM model is what we established in the first six months. “Then we took a lot of time talking to the potential customer base to understand the problem we wanted to solve, and with that knowledge, started building the tech around it.” Chief technology officer James McClearen also joined Blueflite in 2018, bringing 15 years of design engineering experience in the automotive industry at companies such as AVL and Toyota, along with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology. Noppel adds that the idea took some time to develop fully, in no small part because there were still many unknowns in an evolving industry. Knowing they wanted to be involved with UAVs and logistics, they worked out step-by-step how to make it happen. Since the project’s genesis, Blueflite has put a lot of effort into understanding the requirements that a cargo UAV system must meet. At the highest level, these are reliability and operating economics, says Noppel. “Reliability is important because these vehicles will be used for package delivery, regardless of weather and environmental conditions. They need to be rugged to withstand repeated use. Attractive operating economics are achieved through a high degree of automation and by optimising lifecycle cost without the need for significant ground infrastructure,” he explains. Operating concepts Blueflite receives the most requests from three sectors: healthcare, remote industrial delivery and e-commerce delivery. “Lately, we have been seeing that companies in these sectors are interested in setting up their own drone operations, which we can help them with. The platform is a dual-use technology that also appeals to public sector and government customers,” says Noppel. “This is increasingly important in the evolving political landscape and helps reduce risk for Blueflite because it adds another potential customer base.” The intended operating concept encompasses hub-to-hub, hub-to-spoke and point-to-point flights. As each category involves more complexity than the one before it, most early use cases fall under hub-to-hub. In a representative mission, once the operator is notified of the need to transport something, the item is loaded into the UAV, or a UAV pre-loaded with an item such as emergency medical equipment is allocated to the flight. Next, the flight plan is created and cleared, the UAV takes off, and the operating staff monitor the flight. Once the UAV arrives at its destination, there are several options for payload delivery, including landing the vehicle so that it can be retrieved manually, or either dropping the item or winching it down to the ground. Finally, the UAV returns to base. Blueflite is also working with manufacturers of automated parking/ recharging stations and is developing a means of operating the UAVs from a remote-control centre. Blueflite | UVD Reliability is important because these vehicles will be used for package delivery, regardless of weather and environmental conditions Uncrewed Systems Technology | February/March 2024 Top view of the winged Slate vehicle with payload bay open. Keeping the wings and poweredlift systems separate allows Blueflite to maximise commonality between the two versions