Skydweller Aero readies for first autonomous flight

by Kelvin Wong

US-Spanish aerospace company Skydweller Aero is gearing up to begin construction of a fully unmanned solar-powered unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) following the latest milestone in the flight test campaign of its Solar Impulse 2 optionally manned prototype, company officials told Janes.

Skydweller Aero announced the successful flight demonstration of the prototype aircraft using an initial version of its in-house aircraft control, actuation, and sensor system suite – aimed at proving the efficacy of essential software and hardware components for the future unmanned aircraft – as well as associated enhancements to aircraft functionality including the sensor, computing, and communications infrastructure required to achieve autonomous flight.

The Skydweller persistent UAV prototype seen taking off for flight trials in Spain. (Skydweller Aero)

The Skydweller persistent UAV prototype seen taking off for flight trials in Spain. (Skydweller Aero)

The test flight was conducted at the company’s provisional site for ground operations and demonstrations in Albacete, Spain.

“The flight was two-and-a-half hours and the aircraft climbed to nearly 16,000 ft [4,876 m],” Skydweller Aero CEO Robert Miller told Janes.

“There was significant hardware – many parts in-house designed – installed as enhancements and upgrades to the initial aircraft, including advancements to aircraft functionality, including sensor, computing, and communications infrastructure required to achieve autonomous flight,” explained Miller, noting that the company already performed two earlier flights – in December 2020 and February this year – for aircraft check outs, functionality testing, and pilot certification.

“The aircraft has significant aeroelastic effects and so the location specific dynamics of the future INS [inertial navigation system] location was investigated,” he added. “Navigation systems were verified to ensure they do not have electromagnetic interference issues with the base systems.”

https://www.janes.com/defence-news/news-detail/skydweller-aero-readies-for-first-autonomous-flight

US-Spanish aerospace company Skydweller Aero is gearing up to begin construction of a fully unmanned...

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