Highflying technology

Highflying technology

September 8, 2005

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) open new frontiers and possibilities within scientific research, resource management, and surveillance. Norut IT tested its newly acquired airplane in Troms September 1st and 2nd.

Use of UAVs, which are more descriptively also called robotic aircrafts, is new to scientific research in Norway. Computer controlled miniature aircrafts reveal new possibilities within science, resource management, and surveillance. The UAV operating costs are much lower than for the alternatives, which today usually are use of manned airplanes or helicopters.

September 1st and 2nd Norut IT tested its newly acquired UAV on an airstrip just outside Breivikeidet. The airplane has a weight of approx. 12 kg and runs on petrol. The operating speed is 100 km/h, the range is approx. 300 km, and it can carry a payload of 3 kg.

The plane is controlled by an autopilot that uses GPS waypoints to navigate. The autopilot communicates by satellite phone with a base control station. The satellite link is used to send flight information to the base and receive control commands from the base. This enables us to control the plane and the instrumentation from home base independent of the planes position on the globe.

The UAV is of the model "Viper" made by ET-Air, this UAV is a prototype that will be used for instrument testing and "proof of concept" demonstrations. We are working together with Peregrine Dynamics and ET-Air to further develop the UAV platform with the goal of extending the range to 3000 km within the next year.

Why Norut IT and why Northern Norway?

Norut IT has human resources that make it uniquely qualified to take on this endeavor. Our researchers has backgrounds in various fields within remote sensing and ICT, which makes us an interdisciplinary group able us to couple instrumentation, automation, communication, and data analysis. Airborne measurements are still remote sensing, just a bit closer to the ground than the satellite measurements we usually work with, with the added opportunity to do in-situ measurements.

Northern Norway has unique opportunities and needs that can be met by use of UAVs. We have vast areas at sea and over land containing some of the most valuable natural resources on earth. These areas need to be managed and controlled to ensure safe and sustained use of these resources.

The fact that the area is sparsely populated and there is little general aviation makes it simpler and safer to obtain permits to fly here compared to more densely populated areas further south. In other words the perfect place to start.

New jobs in the North?

If we succeed in developing the UAV as an operational tool for surveillance and resource management this will generate new jobs. Due to the gifts of nature, Northern Norway could be world leading in UAV operations in arctic conditions.

Applications

Applications currently under consideration:

 

  • Power line inspection with regard to vegetation growth control and icing.
  • Measurements of snow depth for runoff modeling in connection with hydropower production.
  • Coastal and oceanic surveilance
  • Natural resource management, i.e. reindeer grazing, vehicle track damage, seal and polar beer counts.
  • Scientific research within a number of fields.
  • Validation of satellite remote sensing data

 

There exist numerous other applications as well and we want to work with scientists in different fields as well as businesses and government to develop UAV based solutions that meet their needs in more cost efficient ways than the solutions they use today.

Recruitment to science and student opportunities

The UAV with instrumentation will be displayed at "The Science Square" in Tromsø during the Science Days on September 23rd and 24th. Visitors will be able to take the UAV on a virtual flight with our flight simulator.

Norut IT has already established cooperation with faculty and students at Tromsø University College and the University Centre in Svalbard. Students will be able to participate in development and research based on the UAV platform. Initially students will work on developing a stereographic imaging system and analysis of hyper spectral imager data.

Contact person Scientist Rune Storvold