One of the best ways to extend the range of a VTOL aircraft is to add wings for horizontal flight, and Drone Volt's Heliplane brings this kind of thinking to the industrial drone market, offering long flight endurance times, 1.6-kg (3.5-lb) payload capacity and VTOL/hover capabilities.
Many of the early-stage flying car designs we've been seeing over the last few years have tried to combine the convenience and hovering ability of multicopter-style VTOL with the extended range of a winged aircraft – particularly where lithium batteries are involved, because they just don't offer very good energy density yet.
Adding wings does add a degree of complexity, whether you implement it through tilting rotors or simply by sticking wings and a pusher or pull propeller on the airframe as France's Drone Volt has done here. As the device changes mode, it needs to switch control schemes, and we'd be interested to know how this Heliplane navigates the transition; all the website tells us is that "the transition between the two flight modes is fully automatic," so we expect its primary mode of flight will be full autopilot around a set course for industrial uses.
The Heliplane is not a small machine. It comes in two sizes: Large, with a 230-cm (7.5-ft) wingspan, and Extra Large, with a 270-cm (8.8-ft) wingspan. It's modular, so you can pull the wings and tail off and operate it as a pure quadcopter if necessary, but you won't be approaching the maximum flight duration of 60 minutes unless you're flying with wings.
You can order one in three configurations: the Security version comes with a 20x zoom camera and a thermal sensor. The Lidar version is ideal for high-resolution 3D mapping, and the Photogrammetry version gives you an RGB camera and real-time kinematic (RTK) positioning for centimeter-level accuracy. Each of these can be bought separately as an accessory.
As standard, the Heliplane will transmit data some 500 m (0.3 mi), but it's possible to upgrade to a system that gives you some 20 times this range. No pricing is available at this stage.
Source: Drone Volt
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