With a legacy of delivering reliable, robust, and highly accurate small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS), NOAA Atmospheric Turbulence and Diffusion Division (ATDD) of the Air Resources Laboratory has selected Black Swift Technologies (BST), a specialized engineering firm based in Boulder, CO, to integrate their SwiftCore Flight Management System with a UAV Factory Penguin BE UAV platform in support of a joint research project with the University of Tennessee Space Institute (UTSI). Chosen for its reliability, intuitive user interface and precise autopilot capabilities, this represents the first integration of BST’s SwiftCore Flight Management System (FMS) with the Penguin BE UAV platform.
“The Penguin will enable airborne measurements of hyperspectral and thermal imaging to assess surface fluxes of sensible and latent heat,” states Dr. Steve Brooks, Associate Professor Department of Mechanical, Aerospace and Biomedical Engineering at the University of Tennessee Space Institute. “Yet we needed an autonomous autopilot for the aircraft capable of navigating the same flight path six times a day, ten days in a row, and you want the aircraft over the same points at the same time. Black Swift Technologies’ autopilot can very precisely control all aspects of our aircraft’s flight. We’re almost getting to the point where you hook everything up, put it on a runway and it pretty much does everything on its own.”
The SwiftCore™ FMS enables advanced control systems. These “smart” control systems provide industry leading sensor-based control of the UAS that minimizes operator workload while improving the quality of the observed data by autonomously modifying the flight path based on sensor inputs.
In addition to providing the Flight Management System and the Ground Station to control the aircraft, Black Swift Technologies also integrated the various sensors and cameras necessary to facilitate the myriad tests conducted. The payload included a Resonon hyperspectral imaging camera and TeAx combo Infrared thermal/RGB camera.
“This is a significant integration of our SwiftCore Flight Management System with a highly-regarded 3rd party airframe—the Penguin BE UAV platform,” emphasizes Jack Elston, Ph.D., CEO of Black Swift Technologies. “The fact that both NOAA and UTIS specifically sought out our Flight Management System for this project is quite a testament to the high degree of accuracy and reliability our solutions deliver.”
Leveraging BST’s proprietary Mission Planning Software, scientists can program the Penguin in minutes to calculate the area under review and then begin collecting data for immediate analysis and decision-making.
System training and aircraft flight tests were recently conducted in Colorado. “The overall objective was to get our team experienced flying the Penguin, and experienced using Black Swift Technologies’ autopilot, and the transitions from manual to auto control, and vice versa,” said Ed Dumas, ATDD UAS pilot. “BST’s autopilot is quite intuitive and has a nice interface. It’s easy to use. Everything we’ve seen so far gives me confidence that the autopilot and the aircraft are a good combination. I’m excited to get to work with this system.”
About the SwiftCore Flight Management System
SwiftCore Flight Management System has been proven in the field to provide a cost-effective, powerful, and easy-to-operate system engineered to meet the demands of nomadic scientific field campaigns in harsh environments. With its intuitive user-focused interface, flight planning is simple and easy to accomplish. Mission monitoring and mapping is all done from a handheld Android™ Tablet loaded with BST’s SwiftTab™ software. Gesture-based controls enable users to confidently deploy their aircraft with minimal training while being able to collect data over geography that is topically diverse with confidence.
About Black Swift Technologies
Founded in 2011, Black Swift Technologies LLC, develops custom unmanned aircraft system (UAS) solutions leveraging the SwiftCore™ Flight Management System (FMS) consisting of the SwiftPilot™ autopilot system, the SwiftTab™ tablet-based user interface, the SwiftStation™ ground station, and application specific sensor integrations. The SwiftCore™ FMS is designed to be modular, robust, and simple to operate allowing users to focus on data products.
In addition to the SwiftCore™ FMS, Black Swift Technologies has unique capabilities to develop and deploy advanced small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) due the team’s combined expertise in the design, implementation, and analysis of advanced “smart” control systems, expertise in legal and safe flight operations in the United States airspace, and their practical experience and knowledge from thousands of hours of UAS flight operations in demanding conditions.
More information on Black Swift Technologies and their suite of sUAS solutions can be found at http://www.bst.aero.
About the Penguin BE UAV Platform
Penguin BE is the electric version of the Penguin B and a perfect choice for short duration missions. Electric propulsion offers clean operation with excellent reliability and simple maintenance. The Penguin BE is a high-performance semi-integrated small UAV platform available for final assembly and customization by UAV system integrators. With a small footprint of a 3.3 meter wingspan, Penguin BE can handle up to 11.5 kg of payload weight. Modular composite structure, fast assembly, large access hatches, removable payload bay, are the key features of the Penguin BE innovative design.
About University of Tennessee Space Institute (UTSI)
The University of Tennessee Space Institute (UTSI) is a graduate education and research institution located in Middle Tennessee adjacent to the U. S. Air Force Arnold Engineering Development Center. UTSI was established in 1964 as part of The University of Tennessee and has become an internationally recognized institution for graduate study and research in engineering, physics, mathematics, and aviation systems and has made remarkable contributions at the local, state, national, and global levels.
About NOAA’s Atmospheric Turbulence & Diffusion Division (ATDD)
The Atmospheric Turbulence and Diffusion Division (ATDD), located in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, is one of several field divisions of NOAA’s Air Resources Laboratory, headquartered in College Park, MD. ATDD was originally created to develop diffusion models to track the dispersion of accidental releases of contaminants. This research led to participation in scientific campaigns investigating atmospheric flows in complex terrain and urban areas and the transport and surface exchange of nitrogen, sulfur, and mercury compounds. ATDD’s research is focused on air quality, climate and boundary-layer processes and is directed toward issues of national and global importance. Air quality research objectives include improving the understanding of air-surface exchange processes and increasing the predictive capabilities of air quality models.