VT-Naut fixed-wing drone takes off vertically and makes water landings
If you've ever tried flying a drone, you'll know how hard it can be to land one in exactly the right place … now imagine trying to land one on the pitching deck of a boat out at sea. The VT-Naut is designed to make things easier, by performing belly landings on the water.
Manufactured by Canadian company Aeromao, the VT-Naut is a VTOSL (vertical take-off and short landing) tail-sitter drone. This means it takes off pointing straight up, tilts into a horizontal orientation for fast and efficient fixed-wing forward flight, and requires a short amount of space for performing a horizontal landing.
This functionality provides some of the benefits of a full-on VTOL drone, but without the added costs, complexity and energy consumption that come with being able to perform true helicopter-style vertical take-offs and landings.
In fact, Aeromao claims that the VT-Naut is "the only vertical take-off fixed-wing drone that can land on the water." The company's existing Aeromapper Talon Amphibious drone also performs aquatic belly landings, but it takes off horizontally.
Needless to say, all of the VT-Naut's electronics are coated for protection against humidity and salt water, plus each component sits in its own sealed compartment. Additional onboard compartments, for carrying equipment such as mapping cameras, are also waterproofed with gasket seals on their doors.
The actual belly landing is performed autonomously at a predetermined spot, although that location can be changed in mid-flight. A rangefinder on the drone continuously monitors its distance from the water, tweaking the aircraft's flare for a smooth landing. The drone's EPP (expanded polypropylene) foam body can reportedly withstand a fair amount of abuse, in the event that the landing isn't so smooth.
Once the VT-Naut has come to a stop, it simply gets fished out of the water. That said, the prototype is capable of using its propellers to make its way across the water's surface like a boat. This function has yet to be perfected, however, so it's not being promoted as a standard feature – for now, at least.
As far as basic specs go, the VT-Naut has a cruising speed of 55 km/h (34 mph), a top speed of 85 km/h (53 mph) and can fly for up to 90 minutes per charge of its battery. It has a communications range of over 30 km (19 miles), and can carry up to 500 grams (1.1 lb) of equipment for applications such as mapping, surveying, inspection, scouting and observation.
It's available now via the Aeromao website, priced at CAD$14,900 (about US$11,173). You can see it in belly-landing action, in the video below.