SEARCH FOR NEW EQUIPMENT

Today, I continued the search for an Unmanned Air System (UAS) to enhance or replace our current Remote Imagery Support Service equipment. I travelled 6.5 hours by road to a demonstration of a Kestrel 1000ES and a Kestrel 500. A more traditional design of air vehicle than our current quad copter.kestrel1000esbrochureThe trip was definitely well worth every mile.  I have to thank John Cunningham from On-target Software Solutions Limited for an enjoyable demonstration. The Kestrel 1000ES did exactly what it said on the can. I was impressed with its stability and control. It is currently in use by Hampshire Fire and Rescue and Scottish & Southern Energy.

kestrel1000esbrochure2

For more information see the website at http://www.carvecsystem.co.uk/

SUCCESSFUL SHORT FLIGHT

Today I took to the skies around Westbury in order to rebuild my confidence with the operation of our microdrone. It has been many weeks since I last flew it. We have been suffering with erratic battery performance then we could not fly at all while the batteries were recalled by the supplier.

I am guessing that the new stickers that have appeared on the batteries are supposed to inform me of something.

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If anyone understands this please let me know. The UK distributor MW Power Systems Limited has said that microdrones GmbH will contact me, but I have heard nothing as usual.

Anyway, the batteries are back and armed with even more battery top tips from a fellow microdrone operator I prepared to venture out. On his advice I recharged the batteries just prior to setting out. I also kept the batteries in my pockets. I also aimed to cover all eventualities by sporting my lucky underpants when I set out. (Not his advice)

With a great deal of trepidation over being so long away from the controls, and with the Wiltshire wind building up and the sky becoming depressingly overcast ; I fitted battery No1 having removed it from my pocket and set to the skies around Westbury once more. I managed 11 mins with the first battery– yeh haaaaaaaaaa !!! In order to end on a positive note I called it a day at that especially with the rain clouds gathering. We will continue to flying over the next few weeks weather permitting.

I intend to persevere with this equipment it provides us with experience and many lessons to learn from its limitations of failing software, wind tolerance, image quality and downlink inconsistency. We have asked for the supplier to buy back the equipment at a drastically reduced price but even they wont entertain it, that itself speaks volumes.

As I have mentioned in earlier blogs we are staying positive with the Remote Imagery Support service developement and are sure this will be successful, but not with the current equipment in its current form. We are actively looking to find other more reliable and cost-effective UAS options with a target of the end of the year.

NEW EQUIPMENT OPTIONS

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On 22 Oct 2009 – some current and interested future microdrone operators gathered for a demonstration of the Ascending Technologies Falcon 8 unmanned air vehicle in the Midlands. Unfortunately, although we made initial contact with the company to set up and attend, we had to later cancel.

As our Remote Imagery Service development has been thwarted by challenges with the current equipment and its support, we are looking around with our lessons learnt over the past 5 months to invest in complementary or alternative equipment. The AscTec Falcon 8 and 12 are among a number of equipment options we are currently considering.

falcon8aThe feedback from those microdrone operators that attended the Falcon 8 demonstration was encouraging. The key areas which appear to impress them are the platforms wind tolerance and the imagery quality. In particular, the camera stabilisation mounts which provided smooth video and clear stills in 10 to 15 mph wind.

Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Systems Association

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Today we became members of the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Systems Association http://www.uavs.org/

The Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Systems Association represents the UAV industry in UK in the interface with Government and is a conduit for information on what is happening within the industry and the regulatory framework especially within the UK.”

Our intention is to be as actively involved as possible in this group. Whilst supporting the group we are looking to utilise its combined information, knowledge and experience which should in turn improve our support services for equipment support consultancy and remote imagery service.

RETURN OF THE BATTERIES

Our batteries have returned after 3 weeks of travelling from Wiltshire to the Midlands then on to Germany.

MW Power Systems Ltd had tested the batteries prior to sending them to microdrones GmbH and agreed that they were not performing consistently. microdrones GmbH have now returned the original batteries without a final explanation from either. So I will go flying and manage 3 mins flying on each battery if I am lucky. Not enough to be fit for purpose.

Customer focused as usual !!! I can feel a chat with Trading Standards coming on!!

BATTERY SAGA CONTINUES

tumble_weedUnfortunately, instead of demonstrating progress of a developing support service whilst logging interesting places and experiences flying our drone, I can only log that we still do not have batteries and therefore cannot fly. A fresh batch of tumble weed is blowing around the microdrone equipment in our store.

The UK distributor for the microdrone (MW Power Systems Ltd) has stumbled across this blog and has this week contacted us.

Their update was, that having tested the batteries themselves before returning them to Germany, they are now saying that the manufacturers assessment is that the batteries are ok!!!

Meanwhile another week will pass and we continue to wait for the UK supplier to provide us with equipment that is fit for purpose.

POSSIBLY THE FLAKIEST BATTERIES ON EARTH

batteryWe have watched another Remote Imagery Support service week pass without primary batteries for our UAV; and not a word from the supplier. No doubt we as their customer will have to chase them and go cap in hand.  We are consoled by the fact that this is not the only service we provide. In fact, we have yet to complete service developement with this equipment, mainly due to a number of previous challenges. The batteries are of course special to type, so fitting any battery will not work.

As an expensive gadget, this is fantastic technology. As a commercial service provision equipment supported by the current support company, it is as much use as ……… I can think of so many !!!

Frustrating since we pay £23K for the equipment and support but when it fails we pay to return it and have no temp cover (eg temp batteries from the company) to enable us to make money to recuperate our capital expenditure.

We will persevere with the challenging support company, who in my humble opinion continue to prove to be completely unprofessional ever since we handed over the money. My guess is that they will have batteries, but their approach will probably mean we wait longer ….. this is how they do business I am afraid …. welcome to the school yard … bless !!

GROUNDED !!!

The suppliers of our microdrone UAV MW Power Systems Ltd have suggested that the batteries are returned for repair or replacement. We are now without power for the drone.

It is good that we get the batteries sorted, but its the fact that we are without the equipment. Also, I cant help wondering when we receive the new batteries, how long before they do the same?

We will wait to see the results of the suppliers analysis. Mean while we have a £22K MD4-200 ornament !

MAKE HAY …

With the Wiltshire wind conditions not favourable for our MD4-200 microdrone UAV, we had it sat on the ground for a couple of weeks. Today though, it was bright and warm, so I set out to a local spot for a refresher flight with the drone.

Oldfield Park

Oldfield Park

Unfortunately with the temperature being 22 -23 Deg C I had not thought to put the hand warmer in with the batteries. Battery 1 and 2 worked ok then on the 3rd and 4th flights the duration was only 3 mins.

I need to understand this issue now. They appear to need to be pampered more than the wife !! Warmed for use and cooled for charging. All of this makes commercial operation costly inefficient and less effective.