Simon Morris Chief Operating Officer at Altus UAS Ltd
Altus is currently engaged in long-range testing scenarios that are resulting in our ORC2 electric helicopter quietly doing something exceptional and catapulting it to a secure position at the absolute pinnacle of the electric VTOL UAS market.
The ORC2 helicopters being used have been fitted with various custom payloads specific to a range of industry applications.
Our systems are performing to a very high standard in a real-world, acid test of their capabilities. The mission parameters being simulated make the use of fixed wing or hybrid VTOL fixed wing platforms entirely unsuitable, with the combination of high payload weight, the requirement for precision landing along route, and the ability to hover when necessary making a helicopter platform the only choice.
In addition to the advanced ORC2 aircraft system and its industry leading autopilot technology, some groundbreaking mission operating procedures are being employed to maximize its potential while maintaining safe operation at all times. The flight teams are conducting extended line of sight operations and in addition to visual observers placed at key intervals, a launch team may get the aircraft airborne and established on its waypoint route, then at a predetermined range a live handoff is conducted inflight, where a second team pick up control of an airborne ORC2 with their own Ground Control Station, finishing the rest of the sortie and ultimately landing the helicopter or allowing another downstream handoff to yet another team or the launch team leapfrogging ahead. This method takes maximum advantage of the endurance of the ORC2 system, and the efficiency achieved by a helicopter with a good forward capture speed. Individual sorties over 6 miles and daily totals exceeding 50 miles are the new norm, and something we are very proud of.
Unlike other small electric helicopter UAS systems currently available, the ORC2 utilizes just two 6 cell batteries and has an easy and intuitive mission planning interface and simplified autopilot assisted flight model, making it user friendly and as straightforward to operate as any multirotor.
We are not aware of any other VTOL platform combines the same degree of sophisticated technology and performance with such a simple operating interface, incorporating a mission planner based control system which allows for the importation of basemaps, shapefile and other geospatial data, or the ability to simply plan dynamically in the field over google or bing maps. Entire sorties can be fully automated from beginning to end, with the Altus autopilot system taking the load, handling takeoff, mission and landing without any human input.
Another feature of the ORC2 setting it apart from the rest is the patented Altus emergency parachute system, which has been extensively tested on this helicopter and is a proven aircraft saver in the unlikely event of inflight failure. On automated triggering the autopilot sends the main rotor to full pitch deflection to stall the blades and instantly reduce their RPM or stop their rotation completely. The parachute is then fired clear from the tail using compressed air and deploys instantaneously to arrest the descent of the aircraft and land it safely nose first.
The Altus team is very proud to be part of pioneering flight operations that have our platform capturing data over distances that have not been conducted in the United States by non-military UAV systems.
The pedigree of the dedicated commercial Altus platforms is shining through here, and providing us an unmatched case study in the UAS industry and an example of just how good our systems are where it matters, in the field.