KittyHawk "heavy lift" quadcopter can carry three GoPros
It seems like not a day goes by without another announcementof a new quadcopter drone. Needless to say, that makes it very hard to stand out in thiscrowded field ... unless your product features something truly unique. With that in mind, Mobile Recon Systems has announced a Kickstartercampaign starting July 10, for a new super-sized quadrotor drone withthree camera mounts.
The KittyHawk is 37.5 inches (95 cm) across and weighs 9.5 lb(4.3 kg) with a payload capacity of another 9.5 lb (4.3 kg) for an all-up flying weightof nearly 20 lb (9 kg). It can carry three cameras, two of which are on gimbals – one on the bottom, another gimbal on the top – and a third camerafixed looking straight ahead.
Gizmag interviewedMike Dowell, the CEO of Mobile Recon Systems, about this new flying machine. Mr.Dowell describes himself as a serial inventor, with a number of patents to hisname (three granted so far, five applied for, according to the patent office). Miketook a systematic look at current quadcopter design from the perspective ofsafety and usability, and came up with the KittyHawk design as a response.
The first and most striking feature of the KittyHawk is thefull-sized prop guards, making it look like a scaled-up Parrot ARDrone. The prop guards have included hand-grips formoving the drone, and offer protection from the high-powered spinning carbonfiber propellers. The wide stance also makes tipping the quadrotor over anddamaging the props very difficult. Mike says that not having propeller guardson a large drone was "stupid" and dangerous.
Another interesting feature is a large LED spotlightattached to the front of the quad, assisting the pilot with orientation andproviding some illumination for the cameras. The spotlight can be turned on andoff remotely.
Why three cameras?
Speaking of cameras, we asked Mr. Dowell why there werethree – and why a camera on the top of the drone?
He could see several applications of the topcamera – doing real-estate photography, performing bridge inspections,looking at power lines, or inspecting wind turbines. He could also see the topcamera being used to inspect amusement park rides from all angles. The threecameras combined can provide 360-degree panoramic images by spinning thequadcopter in place. The cameras can beoperated by a separate radio control unit, allowing the piloting and photographyfunctions to be split. There is one radio video downlink for live video, but athree-way switch allows the operator to select which camera is beingtransmitted. The top and bottom cameras can record video onboard for laterreview.
The onboard brains of the KittyHawk quadcopter is the open-sourcePixhawk PX4 autopilot. This package enables a number of flying modes andincludes GPS guidance for autonomous flight. The big drone can circle aphotography subject, or fly a "follow me" route that keeps the controller insight. The Pixhawk is located on the topcanopy of the KittyHawk, where a clear window lets the user see all of the LEDstatus indicators on the controller.
Mobile Recon Systems is also working on incorporating asmall LIDAR (laser radar) sensor into the KittyHawk to enable obstacle detectionand avoidance . This should be available in "about 11 to15 months."
Mobile Recon Systems is located in Lexington, Kentucky, andhas six full-time employees. It has been in business about two and a halfyears. "We want to give DJI some American competition," Mike said. The KittyHawk will be built in the US.
There are three models of the drone being offered. The standardmodel, called the Classic, comes with just the one forward-facing camera andno gimbals. Price for the Classic model is US$2,259. The Luxury model has amulti-axis belly gimbal for a GoPro or similar camera system, and is priced at$3,999. The Supreme version has larger propellers, a double-sized battery, anda much larger gimbal sized for a DSLR on thebottom, the smaller GoPro-sized gimbal on the top, and the FPV (first personview) forward camera. The Supreme KittyHawk is priced at $4,579.
Mobile Recon Systems is now working on a number ofupgrades to the KittyHawk series of drones. It has already announced a retractablelanding gear upgrade. Another featurefor later is an emergency 6-foot (2-m) parachute that would pop out ofthe canopy automatically in the event of engine failure. Mobile Recon Systems also has plans for aneven larger quadcopter that would weight 30 lb (13 kg) and be capable ofcarrying a pressurized sprayer for agricultural uses, or a drop box for smallcargo delivery or rescue operations.
The KittyHawk can be seen in action, in the video below.
Source: Mobile Recon Systems