New UAV Platform In Development: SV-1

Hi guys,

I have been working over the past year on a new aircraft/near space craft design. This journey began back in August of 2012 and it has come a long way since then. The goal of the project was originally to simply design a reusable platform for high altitude photography, such as what has/is becoming incredibly popular to do with high altitude weather balloons. Originally we'd considered simply using a glider with an autopilot and drop it from a weather balloon, but our goals continued to multiple and it wasn't long until we'd decided on designing and building this platform completely from the ground up. What we settled on is the craft that we have dubbed the SV-1. Shown below is a front isometric view of our final design for the SV-1 platform. 

3691011456?profile=originalThe SV-1 is a, VTOL semi-autonomous hybrid composite aircraft that utilizes lighter than air gases to either offset the weight of the craft or as a lifting agent to get it up to a high altitude at which point it would be vented off and the vehicle would fly back via autopilot until in range of FPV and traditional remote control systems. It has a number of attributes that we think will make it a rather desirable piece of equipment in the realm of UAVs. Potential applications include, but are not limited to(feel free to suggest any more uses for this that you can think of):

- High Altitude Photography

- High Altitude Research 

- High Altitude Reconnaissance

- Long Range High Altitude Reconnaissance

- Long Term High Altitude Research

- Traditional Recreational FPV Platform

- Traditional Recreational UAV Platform

- Traditional Commercial FPV Platform

- Traditional Commercial UAV Platform

- VTOL Recreational FPV Platform

- VTOL Recreational UAV Platform

- VTOL Commercial FPV Platform

- VTOL Commercial UAV Platform

- Unique Situation Deployment

       ex. Hard to access area exploration.

- Exotic Air Frame Development Platform

- Multi-Autopilot Experimentation Platform 

- Exotic Construction Methods Test Platform  

The final design is supposed to be 15ft long, with a wing span of 15ft as well. Our goal is to have it come  in around 10 pounds including payload. The current plan is to construct it out of polystyrene and coat it with a polyurea hybrid composite to give it a little more strength as well seal it up/give it a smooth surface. Those composites happen to have rather ideal properties for operating in extreme temperatures, so they should be ideal for our high altitude aspirations as long as we can get the craft to come in light enough while using them. We will be calculating this as well as doing some test samples to make sure we can make our weight goal before we go ahead and start constructing this. 

Our ETA is currently a little up in the air as we're not sure what kind of production time we're looking at for this as there is still a lot to be done. Our original goal was to have it done by this summer, but it may be next spring or even later when this gets built, if it gets built. The future for this project is a little uncertain at this point but we have high hopes that it will get built at some point. We are planning on funding via a Kickstarter project when the time comes to build this. We will also be using this, the data we've gathered, and the half scale prototype that we built earlier this year to enter the Google Science Fair.

We did build a half scale proof of concept earlier this year and successfully fly it. I will be posting the video of this flight as soon as we finish editing it. I'll also attach some photos of it along with this post. 

This whole aircraft design was part of a larger project that we called, "Project: Dream Chaser". While this platform was the main agenda for the project along the way we have had many little off shoots come up. By the end of the year we have other smaller projects related to this that we hope to accomplish. 

- Reusable free flight high altitude balloon.

- Found an organization to promote development of aerospace concepts and designs.

- Set up a set of guide lines distinguishing a new class of aircraft/space craft that we feel is the future in the aerospace industry. 

We would love to hear some opinions, suggestions, comments, constructive criticism, or even questions that you have for us on this. Looking forward to hearing what you guys have to say about this stuff.


Note: I've put some CAD images below of the final design for the SV-1, some photos of the prototype, the building of the prototype, and the CAD drawings for the prototype as well. I'll get some flight footage posted as soon as it gets finished. 


3691011470?profile=original3691011513?profile=original3691011440?profile=original3691011528?profile=original3691011553?profile=original3691011483?profile=original3691011578?profile=original3691011608?profile=original3691011548?profile=original3691011595?profile=original3691011634?profile=original3691011677?profile=original3691011720?profile=original3691011649?profile=original3691011694?profile=originalAll rights reserved:

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  • If light enough, I can see a harder coating allowing for a smooth lifting body shape. The lift fans could be set in vertical tunnels (ducted/valved to lateral tunnels to change thrust vector?) allowing for very clean lines.

  • For an unmanned light airship, not covered in highly flammable envelope material (as was the Hindenberg), I don't think Hydrogen is such a bad idea for this. Better lift, can be generated, cheaper... Even back in the "bad" old days, the Zepps had a very good safety record by and large.

    With modern materials and nearly a century of knowledge, I'm sure H can be used quite safely.

    • Moderator

      It's not a proven fact that the Hindenburg's canvas was butyrate-covered, and is closely debated to this day.

  • Just another update. I believe it has been decided that we will be taking a semi-traditional approach to building this. Possibly interlocking foam bulkheads and covering. We are going to try this be building the top front left panel. The mix of the curves there will be the most difficult to build so that is what we will try. We can also look at that sample then for weight and strength testing. 

    The other side project that has came out of this(high altitude reusable free flight balloon) is making progress as well. There are currently two designs in the works, a free flight version and a controlled version that has a quad copter integrated into the frame. The goal is for these to be completely reusable and they will have an active pressure system to keep the balloon from bursting, get more altitude out of it, and dump the helium after it reaches the desired altitude or is up for a predetermined amount of time. I'm hoping I'll be able to produce these and have them available for purchase either later this summer or next year if they are going to go into production. Hopefully the prototype will work as we expect it too. Bellow are some drawings of it. 


  • That was considered as well, but it would have to either be a very, very high pressure cylinder or a very large heavy one. That was the reasoning for using a pump vs a cylinder if we went with an active pressure system and a non rigid craft, but besides simplicity reasons we would still prefer to have a rigid craft. We are looking at some other options at the moment such as building a structure and then using industrial size shrink rap, using molds and painting pre-expanded urethane foam on it making a shell, making a more traditional frame and covering it in a heat activated modelling film or balloon material, making our own composite using rip stop nylon and a resin of some kind(we even thought about spraying on cyanoacrylate aka super glue to make rip stop nylon rigid/consolidate it). Lots of things we're considering at the moment. We just need to look at them all individually, decide what will work the best for our situation, do a scaled down test to very that it works in practice and then we can optimize the design for that material. 

  • Because we need this aircraft to be rigid. We could build it right now and make it fly the same way we did with the proof of concept, but if we're going to use if for high altitude research/photography like we're planning on then we need the air frame to be capable of retaining it's rigidity when it loses pressure on it's return voyage. As it goes up the lifting gas will have to be vented to prevent a rupture, so when it comes back down and the remaining gas contracts that part of the aircraft will lose pressure and for this thing to be able to fly like an airplane it needs to retain that rigidity, thus we need a structure that is rigid. Not to mention, it makes it easy to work on(though it is more difficult to move a large rigid object vs an inflatable one). We have thought about putting a small electric pump or something on board to replace the loss of gas with air on the return flight, but that is rather complex, more weight, and we would just prefer if the structure itself were rigid anyway.

  • Alright guys, I think we're getting a little off topic. Just a little update though, I received some product samples from Industrial Polymers the other day for a hard coat we were looking at using on the outside of this craft, but unfortunately it's going to come in too heavy if we use that, so we're now looking for a different method to construct this. 

  • no it does not, you can buy the apm on its own and it can be programmed with no gps module, just unplug yours and try....

  • Alright guys... I think I've got a question for you all now. A couple of them actually. 

    1st How are these "larger" multirotors typically controlled? Is there a board you can buy that does the mixing of does the mix have to be set up in the transmitter? I know I've seen boards for them, but they always looked like they were just to power all of the motors off of one battery. For our proof of concept model we used a MQX, so everything was all integrated, but that won't be the case when we go bigger.  

    2nd Do you think there would be an interest in a traditional multirotor so to speak, but with a rigid sphere in the middle that can house helium or hydrogen to be used to increase the payload? This is one of the other things we're looking at building, but it's not going to be worth the effort if nobody would want to use something like that. We might also do this as a way to have a high altitude balloon that can be controlled by an autopilot for it's return trip, similar to what we want to do with the SV-1, but much simpler, easier to produce, so on and so forth. 

  • Here's a short video of the proof of concept model as promised. Please excuse the poor video quality. It was shot in 1080p if I remember correctly, but we had to cut it down to something that we could email.

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