The HiDRON stratospheric glider, a joint project between UAVOS and STRATODYNAMICS, has successfully carried out its regular test flight. UAVOS’ operators launched the stratospheric aircraft from a high-altitude balloon carrying a technology supported by NASA’s Flight Opportunities program successfully deploying an experimental payload to 24 km altitude and back.
Extensive testing was performed to test operation in high altitude flight regimes utilizing UAVOS’ autopilot system and payload test services. A launch routine was tested allowing a safe transition from free-fall to stable horizontal flight in thin air after being dropped from the balloon. UAVOS’ autopilot system has once again proven its superior long-range performance Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) capabilities.
The payload was a combination of forward-sensing turbulence detection technologies developed by the University of Kentucky (UK) in Lexington and NASA’s Langley Research Centre in Hampton, Virginia. The flight test aimed to help researchers assess the performance of a wind probe from the UK along with an infrasonic microphone sensor. Together, the instruments are designed to aid forward-sensing turbulence detection for unmanned aerial vehicles, commercial aircraft, the urban air mobility market, and the on-demand drone delivery sector.
Nick Craine, Stratodynamics’ business development lead, comments:
“While the company has conducted pre-flight testing with the licensed sensor, the most recent flight was the first fully complete payload test in an operational environment. Another flight campaign is forthcoming at Spaceport America in late April. This experiment enables cross
validation of the sensor with UK’s technology. The HiDRON glider powered by the UAVOS autopilot enabled the instruments to capture wind velocity, direction, magnitude, and low-frequency sound waves in a flight environment not possible with a passive lift-and-drift
balloon flight profile alone.”
“Flying an unmanned aerial vehicle inside the stratosphere means operating it outside visual line of sight, in low pressures and cold temperatures. These environmental conditions pose many challenges to the UAV aerodynamic design, the autopilot system and the ground infrastructure. We’ve tested the autopilot setup and analyzed flight test results from every phase of the mission. The lessons learned from this test flight will be focused on the future high -altitude missions as well as future Mars analogue flight concepts”, said Aliaksei Stratsilatau, CEO and Lead Developer at UAVOS.
“The advantages of using this type of aircraft – a balloon launch with a glider recovery – has a lot to do with the conditions needed to test our instruments,” said Sean Bailey, principal investigator for the innovation at the University of Kentucky. “The sensitivity of the sensor actually increases with higher velocity. So, it’s not something you could get to work
on a conventional balloon because the air flow wouldn’t be fast enough.”