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UAV Gadgets And The Miniaturization of Things

By Luke Geiver | April 01, 2015

The unmanned aircraft systems test site in Massachusetts may not be the place to go for long-endurance flights, but for payload and sensor testing, the site could someday become a hotbed. Carter Hunt, executive director of the test site at Joint Base Cape Cod, told me earlier this week that the congested airspace in the state makes the site’s sister locations in New York more appealing for long flights. But, with great access to some of the best technology schools in the nation nearby (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), the site will be great for payload testing and collaborative efforts. The site will also be well suited for marine applications given its proximity to the Atlantic Ocean, Hunt said.

Hunt has already been in discussions with several UAV manufacturers focused on a wide-range of platforms. The Massachusetts site will be working, in part, on the miniaturization of things, he says, including making cameras, transmitters, sensors and data storage drives smaller. Given the vast amount of work being done on new platforms, sense-and-avoid systems and long-life batteries or power options, it is refreshing to know that not all U.S. Federal Aviation Administration test sites are the same, and that each, as Hunt shows, is finding its niche in an effort to meet the needs of industry and help the industry itself evolve.

Thomas Meyer, president and founder of a unmanned vehicle company formed in 2004, AirRobot, would certainly be interested in smaller, lighter payloads, but after talking with him this week for a story on a distribution agreement his company signed, it is clear that he isn’t for what he called UAV gadgets.

Because Meyer’s firm has been around since 2004, he understands that the company’s appeal as a UAV startup or technologic marvel may not exist as it does for other sUAV manufacturers, but he is happy about the flight hours and experience his UAVs have and his team has gained since it first began designing and building sUAVs for the German Army in 2006.

According to Meyer, one of the key reasons he believes Northrop Grumman selected his AirRobot platform for its Tennessee-based subsidiary Remotec to distribute to law enforcement and first responders is because the units are not based on gadgets or built with unproven components that haven’t been in existence very long. It is the history, quality and team experience that Meyer believes helped form the relationship along with a strong commitment to safety.