Drones

AirStrato drones give military performance at "affordable" prices

AirStrato drones give military...
ARCA has released two AirStrato drone models that it says deliver military-level performance at more affordable prices
ARCA has released two AirStrato drone models that it says deliver military-level performance at more affordable prices
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ARCA has released two AirStrato drone models that it says deliver military-level performance at more affordable prices
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ARCA has released two AirStrato drone models that it says deliver military-level performance at more affordable prices
The AirStrato Pioneer in flight
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The AirStrato Pioneer in flight
The AirStrato Explorer on the Accelerator
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The AirStrato Explorer on the Accelerator
The AirStrato Pioneer being launched from the Accelerator
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The AirStrato Pioneer being launched from the Accelerator
The AirStrato Explorer
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The AirStrato Explorer
The AirStrato Pioneer
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The AirStrato Pioneer
The AirStrato Interface
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The AirStrato Interface
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View gallery - 8 images

The growth in the availability of drones over the last few years has been explosive. In tracking the trend, Gizmag has covered everything from pocket-sized consumer quadcopters to Predator military models. A Romanian NGO, however, is promising that its new drone will fill an untouched gap in the market.

The Airstrato was created by the Romanian Cosmonautics and Aeronautics Association (ARCA) in recognition of the fact that few organizations can afford high-performance UAVs like the Global Hawk or the aforementioned Predator. ARCA is seeking to provide small businesses, research institutions and individuals with a level of performance comparable to high-end UAVs, but at a much more affordable price.

Before you get too carried away, that price starts at US$80,000. For that, you'll get ARCA's "entry-level" AirStrato Pioneer, which has a flight ceiling of up to 26,000 ft (8,000 m) and can fly for up to 12 hours. It has a wingspan of 12 m (39.4 ft), weighs 175 kg (375 lb) and is powered by a 38-volt Robbe 6362/10 engine. Amongst the Pioneer's features are 1,800-watt polycrystalline solar panels that charge its batteries when there's sunlight.

The AirStrato Pioneer
The AirStrato Pioneer

Elsewhere, the Pioneer has a VHF radio that provides communications with air traffic control or other aircraft, and artificial intelligence attributes for avoiding no-fly zones and taking control of flight when communication is lost. A built-in parachute, meanwhile, ensures that there is always a soft landing. ARCA suggests the Pioneer is suited to applications including land and sea border protection, disaster monitoring, remote area exploration and filming for TV and cinema.

The Pioneer's bigger brother, the Explorer, has the same feature set and suggested uses, but is able to fly at a higher altitude and for longer. Its flight ceiling is 60,000 ft (18,000 m) and it has an endurance of up to 20 hours. Those higher specifications will set you back $140,000.

The AirStrato Interface
The AirStrato Interface

Both the Pioneer and the Explorer can be controlled from the $15,000 AirStrato Interface. The Interface is a control center from which the AirStrato drones can be piloted wherever they are in the world. It communicates with the drones via satellite and allows the user to view flight parameters, program autopilot and to pilot the aircraft in assisted fully manual modes. Features include a hand-operated throttle and stick, a high-quality display, a keyboard and mouse for navigating software, and foot-pedals.

In the absence of a runway, the drones can also be launched from ARCA's Accelerator, a pneumatic launcher that will set the drones into flight in less than a second. To do so, the Accelerator's internal air compressor delivers a force of 2,200 ft lb (2,983 Nm). It comes at an additional cost of $20,000. Other add-ons available include 4K video cameras and additional battery packs.

The video below shows the ARCA drones and Accelerator in action.

Source: AirStrato

AirStrato release video

View gallery - 8 images
11 comments
Steven Evers
Does anyone else think that this sound like good thing?
esthero
@Steven Evers I am not sure. Besides, does this mean that anybody with sufficient funds can buy and fly this thing? I wonder why it would be a good thing that wealthy private individuals or 'ordinary' commercial companies other than 'good' governments, should be able to fly these things above our heads.
Mark A
I think it would be great along the border.
Mel Tisdale
This is a step too far. There is no mention of what its payload capabilities are, but one can assume that those with malicious intent could make a real mess of major events, such as the U.K.'s opening of parliament ceremony.
One has to assume that some people somewhere are having high level meetings as to what drones generally will be allowed to do or denied from doing, and who is to be allowed to own them. And also who will be allowed to pilot them and under what licencing regime. It will be bad enough having an Amazon book order drop on someone's head from a few meters, but having a fully loaded transport aircraft fall on a city centre from a height of many thousands of feet will be several orders of magnitude worse.
In the meantime, I sincerely hope that these devices have built in collision avoidance software built in, operating to international standards so that they do not zig when they should zag.
StWils
I am not so optimistic. As a retired army officer I see this only as a threat. Literally, this inexpensive technology is a "Training Bra" for up and coming terrorists and criminal cartels. Cartels have already built several cargo carrying submarines. They have also acquired and used military quality weapons and then engaged several South American governments, as well as the US and Mexican forces in direct combat. This drone product is just another step enabling Non State Actors to directly challenge major nation-states. Look at how well things are working out for ISIS, at least so far. We can and we will destroy them, but at how great a human and material cost?
ezeflyer
When we finally achieve personal flight and cars and roads lose some of their practicality, we are going to have some huge traffic jams in the sky with all these drones occupying the airspace.
toolman65
in the movie "black sunday" - 1977- a goodyear airship is stolen, has a large anti personnel weapon strapped to it's underbelly and is flown over an open air stadium during the super bowl.
sounds implausible? now, imagine how much easier it would have been if the terrorists owned a drone.
it is only a matter of time before terrorists start using this technology against us. all these advances must be tempered with the ability to defend against said advances.

Illini_Rob
It's a good thing all small airports have such heavy security to keep would be evil-doers from using cessnas as suicide craft -- forcing them to use drones. What? There is virtually zero security at small airports? What? Backpack bombs and car bombs are much more effective at causing destruction than drones?
Hmmm my tinfoil hat seems to be malfunctioning. I'm going to go check and see if it's under warranty.
SpeedBird2014
I see a solid design philosophy behind the AirStrato Drones that tweaked with the right materials and a Synergy Propulsion System would serve the "Commercial Market" very well. It appears to be scalable, the aero dynamics and lines of this air vehicle are well done...I applaud your team for excellence.
I do believe that there are numerous uses for an aircraft/ UAS/ UAV of this type and operational modalities. Anything at all used in the wrong hands brings issues, problems, and can be used for ill use. There is no appearance of any ill intent in this airframe to me what so ever. I have designed aircraft, worked with many pioneers in the industry yester year and bleeding edge current designers and "everyone" had thier own ideals of what is optimal and they will not budge a milimeter and thank God for that. In essence design concepts and innovation honed down to at least excellence in its own form, but reality dictates a combination of 2-3 exemplary synergies of design then tweak to harmony and economics.
As a fomer USAF, Commercial, Corporate Pilot and Private Pilot I see only the Positive Applications to "We the People" not the negative, however I do not ware Rose Colored Glasses either. In a NutShell a modified hybrid aerodynamic, material and propulsion system(s) tweaked design of this airframe could be outstanding.
Perhaps the "Nay Sayers" state it will be used for negative purposes, simply "synergize this concept" into a highly refined "Gen 3 Design" that is ultra optimized with cutting edge architechure, design, and efficency with speed and have exlusive agreements with purchasers on intended uses with "digital, satellite, RFD, and GPS" usage confirmation if "anything" is in question on the "back end". This is much like the aerospace parts tracking system to assure quality compliance and qualified contractors.
I will end with this: Alliance/ Partnerships with Meta-Materials manufacturers is important, as well as Propulsion System Designer (s). It all takes Money, Politics (unfortunately), Tenacity, Passion, and as much as possible a utility air vehicle that creates a paradigm shift in cost, efficency and operational modalities for the good of all people.
There seems to be a rush to get DOD contracts for UAV/ UAS concepts...focus on the commercial market like Agriculture, Forestry, Marine Saftey (Coast Guard), Filming, Ecology, University Research, Aerospace Tech Platform (testing components), FEMA, Real Estate Assesments, Environmental, Wildfire, and Wild Life Studies etc. Have a KEEN Focus in those areas, fine tune and perfect everything through "Secure collaberation" where no other airframe can possibly contented nor compete.
It is essential that you make this a modular airframe structure (quick interchangable) for the ultimate utility air vehicle on a moments notice to "known Commercial Operators" with company verified intents.
I can personally see many ultra positive applications, with several "tweaks" mentioned above to this airframe. I want to congratulate you and your team on a solid good effort. Obviously, with instituional Super Computers and Alliance Partners in Materials and Propulsion all things and dynamics change for a "Positive Mulitiplier Effect" and this "is" a platform that certainly can absorb bleeding edge tech that would make it a game changer...my intent is to give you Focus. Note: Only insiders get the big DOD contracts, if you are not amongst them or have a problem with those "ideals" then focus commercially and "Imagineer" applications.
Super Job thus Far...
RobertWerner
ARCA is a group of scammers. Stay away from them.
They are specialized in building empty fiber glass barrels shaped as rockets, planes, etc. and making fake video aimed to convince people their creations are able to fly. A short look at the technical characteristics of Air Strato is enough, even for a high school student, to prove that this airplane is ridiculously underpowered and unable to fly.
Technical characteristics of Air Strato: 1) Engine thrust at sea level - 6 x 20 kgf 2) Power source Installed power of solar cells - 2,800 W Power generator for hybrid version - 5,100 W 3) Take-off speed - 54 km/h Source: airstrato.com/en/explorer.html
By using the relation:
Power = Thrust x Speed
it follows that the total thrust of the six propellers multiplied by the minimum speed (the takeoff velocity) is well below the available onboard power:
Demonstration:
6 x 20 kg x 9.81m/s^2 x (54000m/3600s) = 17.658 kW
The maximum available power of Air Strato, according to ARCA, is 2.8 kW + 5.1 kW = 7.9 kW and the plane needs 17.658 kW only to stay aloft, without climbing. The discrepancy is huge.
The member of ARCA do not know physics. They try to mislead people with a site that apparently shows various technical details of their plane, Air Strato, but in reality they are bluffing hoping to get funds with which they will run away.
ARCA has a long history, dating back to 2004, of obtaining money invoking various pretexts, building an empty fiberglass profile looking like a plane or rocket and finally, after some fake or misleading videos posted on the net, abandoning the project and starting something else.