Australia turns to homegrown drones

 
Page 1 of 2 | Single page

Debating the finer points of unmanned aerial vehicle design.

View larger image View larger image View larger image

See all pictures here »

Australia's miners and unmanned aerial vehicle operators are increasingly reliant on locally built drones for trials and implementations.

Perth firms A.I. Tech and Cyber Technology are among the new breed of UAV manufacturers and integrators to offer locally-built aircraft for sale and rental.

Australian companies have traditionally used craft built overseas, with US manufacturer Rotomotion a popular early choice. However, they are less favoured now than they were several years ago, as companies increasingly look to avoid the hassle of gaining US export clearances.

Read part one of iTnews' investigation into how Australian companies use UAVs.

Although HELImetrex operates a Rotomotion, CEO Ray Gillinder says the company will soon be "disbanding" it.

"Too long a setup time and too many moving parts essentially," he says.

Adam Technology has also stopped using Rotomotions. "Our pilots that we used to use to fly [Rotomotions] for us have actually set up their own company, and are manufacturing their own UAVs, which are a lot better," managing director Jason Birch says.

The US is trying to hasten export clearance of UAVs for foreign buyers as it faces a "record" $327 billion backlog of arms exports.

Although the action comes too late for some operators, it hasn't dissuaded all from buying UAVs made offshore.

HELImetrex, for example, has bought a German-produced Microdrones UAV, which is currently "on its way" to Australia.

However, Adam Technology is using an MX-880 vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft produced by under-the-radar Perth firm A.I. Tech.

"It's the same basic idea as the Rotomotion ones," Birch says. "They're what they call a 90 size helicopter with an autonomous flight controller attached."

Serious business

Like many other UAV makers, A.I. Tech keeps most of its technical specifications under wraps. The company does not even maintain a web presence.

A.I. Tech director Kevin Lunn tells iTnews that the firm manufactures its craft "to do a job, not to sell on to other people.

"All the UAVs you buy off the shelf are built to a price," he says, warning the propensity of some players to use components more suited to hobby craft.

"Don't get me wrong here - we use an airframe that is from the hobby industry.

"We have to because it makes sense. There's no point in us spending $12 million on machines to manufacture an airframe that we can actually modify to our own technical specifications.

"But its the rest of the things inside the aircraft - the power systems, the dual downlinks and uplinks that we use. It's all these things that make our UAV very different from the basic UAV out there."

Lunn says A.I. Tech is "now starting to test fly multi-bladed rotor systems" capable of carrying a payload of up to ten kilograms.

"Although we do have multi-rotor platforms that we can use, we don't want to because they just don't have the runtime, the lifting capacity. They don't have so many things," he says.

"We find that what we have in our particular MX-880 is ... a lot of potential to do a lot of things with it without having to change the platform. We can fly faster, higher, there's a lot of things we could do."

However, Lunn says he and fellow director Nigel Brown have no problem building a UAV to meet a desired specification.

"Be it fixed-wing, rotary-wing or multi-rotor, it doesn't really matter which platform we need to utilise; it just depends on the job we've got at hand," Lunn says.

Fellow Perth manufacturer Cyber Technology offers fixed-wing and quad-rotor UAVs, though its CyberQuad Maxi is most commonly used for civil applications, such as on mine sites.

Rival manufacturer UAVs Australia, meanwhile, is importing an unknown quantity of fixed-wing UAVs into Australia.

"We have a relationship with a manufacturer of a mature platform and we've just purchased those systems from them, and we're integrating them here in Australia with a gimbal, autopilot and transponder technology and all the things they need to be able to operate comprehensively in Australian airspace," commercial director Mark Stevens says.

"We've sourced all those parts individually and we're integrating them here in Australia, and then we're taking them onsite.

"We've got a series of nodes we've set up around Australia in the key areas where our clients are operating, and we're operating from there. At the moment they're all remote locations."

Some models were not raised by those iTnews interviewed but are known to be possible for civil applications, such as the Yamaha RMAX, Leptron's VTOLs and Lehmann Aviation fixed-wings.

Read on to the next page for UAV designs - VTOL vs fixed-wing.

Copyright © iTnews.com.au . All rights reserved.


 
 
 
Top Stories
Frugality as a service: the Amazon story
Behind the scenes, Amazon Web Services is one lean machine.
 
Negotiating with the cloud email megavendors
[Blog post] Lessons from Woolworths’ mammoth migration.
 
Qld govt to move up to 149k staff onto Office 365
Australia's largest deployment, outside of the universities.
 
 
A homegrown CyberQuad UAV by Perth-based Cyber Technology inspects a communications tower. (Courtesy: Cyber Technology).
Sign up to receive iTnews email bulletins
   FOLLOW US...

Latest VideosSee all videos »

The great data centre opportunity on Australia's doorstep
The great data centre opportunity on Australia's doorstep
Scott Noteboom, CEO of LitBit speaking at The Australian Data Centre Strategy Summit 2014 in the Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia. http://bit.ly/1qpxVfV Scott Noteboom is a data centre engineer who led builds for Apple and Yahoo in the earliest days of the cloud, and who now eyes Asia as the next big opportunity. Read more: http://www.itnews.com.au/News/372482,how-do-we-serve-three-billion-new-internet-users.aspx#ixzz2yNLmMG5C
Interview: Karl Maftoum, CIO, ACMA
Interview: Karl Maftoum, CIO, ACMA
To COTS or not to COTS? iTnews asks Karl Maftoum, CIO of the ACMA, at the CIO Strategy Summit.
Susan Sly: What is the Role of the CIO?
Susan Sly: What is the Role of the CIO?
AEMO chief information officer Susan Sly calls for more collaboration among Australia's technology leaders at the CIO Strategy Summit.
Meet the 2014 Finance CIO of the Year
Meet the 2014 Finance CIO of the Year
Credit Union Australia's David Gee awarded Finance CIO of the Year at the iTnews Benchmark Awards.
Meet the 2014 Retail CIO of the Year
Meet the 2014 Retail CIO of the Year
Damon Rees named Retail CIO of the Year at the iTnews Benchmark Awards for his work at Woolworths.
Robyn Elliott named the 2014 Utilities CIO of the Year
Robyn Elliott named the 2014 Utilities CIO of the Year
Acting Foxtel CIO David Marks accepts an iTnews Benchmark Award on behalf of Robyn Elliott.
Meet the 2014 Industrial CIO of the Year
Meet the 2014 Industrial CIO of the Year
Sanjay Mehta named Industrial CIO of the Year at the iTnews Benchmark Awards for his work at ConocoPhillips.
Meet the 2014 Healthcare CIO of the Year
Meet the 2014 Healthcare CIO of the Year
Greg Wells named Healthcare CIO of the Year at the iTnews Benchmark Awards for his work at NSW Health.
Meet the 2014 Education CIO of the Year
Meet the 2014 Education CIO of the Year
William Confalonieri named Healthcare CIO of the Year at the iTnews Benchmark Awards for his work at Deakin University.
Meet the 2014 Government CIO of the Year
Meet the 2014 Government CIO of the Year
David Johnson named Government CIO of the Year at the iTnews Benchmark Awards for his work at the Queensland Police Service.
Q and A: Coalition Broadband Policy
Q and A: Coalition Broadband Policy
Malcolm Turnbull and Tony Abbott discuss the Coalition's broadband policy with the press.
AFP scalps hacker 'leader' inside Australia's IT ranks.
AFP scalps hacker 'leader' inside Australia's IT ranks.
The Australian Federal Police have arrested a Sydney-based IT security professional for hacking a government website.
NBN Petition Delivered To Turnbull's Office
NBN Petition Delivered To Turnbull's Office
UTS CIO: IT teams of the future
UTS CIO: IT teams of the future
UTS CIO Chrissy Burns talks data.
New UTS Building: the IT within
New UTS Building: the IT within
The IT behind tomorrow's universities.
iTnews' NBN Panel
iTnews' NBN Panel
Is your enterprise NBN-ready?
Introducing iTnews Labs
Introducing iTnews Labs
See a timelapse of the iTnews labs being unboxed, set up and switched on! iTnews will produce independent testing of the latest enterprise software to hit the market after installing a purpose-built test lab in Sydney. Watch the installation of two DL380p servers, two HP StoreVirtual 4330 storage arrays and two HP ProCurve 2920 switches.
The True Cost of BYOD
The True Cost of BYOD
iTnews' Brett Winterford gives attendees of the first 'Touch Tomorrow' event in Brisbane a brief look at his research into enterprise mobility. What are the use cases and how can they be quantified? What price should you expect to pay for securing mobile access to corporate applications? What's coming around the corner?
Ghost clouds
Ghost clouds
ACMA chair Chris Chapman says there is uncertainty over whether certain classes of cloud service providers are caught by regulations.
Was the Snowden leak inevitable?
Was the Snowden leak inevitable?
Privacy experts David Vaile (UNSW Cyberspace Law and Policy Centre) and Craig Scroggie (CEO, NextDC) claim they were not surprised by the Snowden leaks about the NSA's PRISM program.
Latest Comments
Polls
Which bank is most likely to suffer an RBS-style meltdown?





   |   View results
ANZ
  20%
 
Bankwest
  9%
 
CommBank
  11%
 
National Australia Bank
  17%
 
Suncorp
  24%
 
Westpac
  19%
TOTAL VOTES: 1422

Vote