Autonomous Drone Station

A hangar for the drone on autonomous control with a built-in charging system. Equipped with a robotic drone positioning/landing system. The hangar design allows the drone to take off and land automatically.

Industry:

Aerospace, Drone & LSA

Robotics

TRL:

2 → 8

Project duration:

7 months

Challenge

Despite the exponential growth of the drone fleet and their varieties, there are very few ‘hangar’-like solutions on the market which are intended to keep, charge and transport drones to the place of operation.

The customer contacted EnCata with just a preliminary concept for the drone hatch, which was acknowledged as TRL-2. The customer, however, had very clear requirements for the future product and we determined in 2017 that there was no similarly complex design or automated hangar system available on the market.

The concept for unattended UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) operations is simple but requires complex engineering. In the concept, a remote operator/computer commands the UAV to take- off automatically. The drone performs the required mission and transmits data for further processing en-route. Upon completing the flight, the UAV returns to the hangar for charging; and the processed data is sent to the customer/drone pilot.

Our Role

  • Concept development
  • Custom electronics development
  • Custom IC design
  • Firmware (embedded software) development
  • Mechanical design
  • Electrical design
  • DFM
  • Full documentation development
  • Prototype manufacturing

Technologies Used

Kinematic Simulations

Kinematic Simulations

IP55 and design for low temperatures (Arctic)

IP55 and design for low temperatures (Arctic)

Custom IC charger design

Custom IC charger design

Custom BMS (Li-ion and Li-Poly)

Custom BMS (Li-ion and Li-Poly)

RS485 and UART

RS485 and UART

Wi-Fi and GPS+GNS

Wi-Fi and GPS+GNS

Custom HVAC system

Custom HVAC system

Weather (Meteo) Station

IR lock drone landing technology

IR lock drone landing technology

CNC milling & lathe

CNC milling & lathe

Laser cutting CNC

Laser cutting CNC

EnCata offers comprehensive hardware and IoT product development services at a fraction of the cost

For Enterprises

R&D + design + manufacturing under ONE roof
Scale up and down your team
Intergrated hardware + software development
New technologies and research 

CORPORATIONS click HERE for more info

For Startups

MVP and POC prototypes
Affordable consultancy rates
All IP is yours
In-house batch production

STARTUPS click HERE for more info

Approach & Solution

EnCata began the project with technical and functional analysis and developed a detailed specification and functions priority. The developed specification and use-cases were used for technical concept development.

At the technical concept phase, several essential subsystems and modules were identified. These modules enable key functionality for the autonomous hangar and unattended drone take-off and landing:

Autonomous Drone Station work

Initially (for the EVT,  or engineering validation tests) 3 custom PCBA modules were designed:

Precision mechanics for hangar opening/closing, drone positioning table subsystems, and a custom 200 A peak (500 W power) charger were the particular engineering challenges we faced in achieving the TRL-5 development phase (equal to EVT).

In addition, a custom BMS (battery management system) had to be designed. The 1st iteration IC design received Li-Poly batteries where individual cells were passively balanced with resistors. In the second iteration, Li-ion batteries were used. Individual cells were actively balanced with an additional circuit, providing reliable charging and longer battery life. 

The assembled and tested alpha-prototype (TRL-6) then successfully passed field tests with the customer’s drone system and telecommunication software to achieve TRL-7. 

In the DVT (design validation testing, equal to TRL-7 and TRL-8) the electronics were integrated as a large module and some PCBAs were respun. Some minor modifications and DFM were made as part of the DVT (the initial engineering concept and design engineering practices of EnCata concerned manufacturability and cost-efficiency of the manufacturing process)

The drone station was thus ready for further batch production and TRL-8 technology.

When investing in their own drone fleet, many businesses discover that the cost of drone ownership is high and exceeds CAPEX in the UAV. For this reason, specialized drone service provider companies exist, and their significance will continue to grow, even if the automated UAV flight (i.e., without the need of a remote pilot) will become the industry standard.

Drone Station case
Drone Station box
Autonomous Drone Station Box

Results

A fully automated drone hatch for the Arctic and desert environment was designed in this project. The startup successfully demonstrated its system to customers and subsequently went into low-volume production of hangars and drones.

The hangar readily adopts use-cases such as surveillance, cargo transportation, and parcel delivery, traffic control/monitoring, construction site monitoring, and infrastructure monitoring (mines, wind turbines, chimneys at powerplants,  etc…).

15 kg

maximum drone take-off weight the hatch can accommodate

1400 mm

is the max diameter/dimension of the host drone

8 flights

per day can be achieved

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