This Saturday at DronesLab we achieved an important milestone in the final steps towards the public release of the DeltaQuad: A 100KM autonomous mission carrying a 1KG payload. This marks the achievement of the most important goal we have set when we started the development of this vehicle over a year ago.

The DeltaQuad is an electric VTOL flying wing capable of fully autonomous operation. It is driven by either the PX4 or AirRails flightstack in combination with proprietary safety and performance software. It is controlled through a tablet and streams telemetry (and optionally video) over an encrypted VPN using the cellular network. Most notably it flies without the need for an airspeed sensor. This improves reliability, usability and performance.

After extensive testing and hundreds of flight hours we knew it could achieve this goal in theory. But as with any theory it needed to withstand the test of reality. So we we started preparing for a mission that would do just that.

The mission

3689715165?profile=originalThe mission was flown in a square pattern. It was setup to autonomously take off vertically to an altitude of 22m, complete 20 laps on a 5km circuit at an altitude of 30m, and land vertically near it's takeoff point. It cruised at approximately 15m/s. The mission took 1 hour and 50 minutes to complete. It was outfitted with a 23Ah 4s lipo and consumed 20.7A of which 19.3 was used for fixed wing flight and 1.4 for vertical takeoff and land.

The payload consisted of a 1KG box filled with dummy weight. The total distance was confirmed through a KML export of the mission loaded in google earth as you can see in the image above. 

The full log of the mission can be found here: http://logs.uaventure.com/view/QEofXUiC5dwm9zh7B3vXgk

Whats next

The DeltaQuad will be publicly available this summer under a new label that we will soon announce together with the full specs and pricing. Additional options and modules will be released shortly after that. Although we can not yet release any more details we are confident that it will be one of the most reliable, scalable and affordable VTOL UAV's that is suitable for commercial applications.

** Update **

The DeltaQuad has been publicly released. Visit https://www.verticaltechnologies.com to find out all the details.

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  • Great achievement! Is this a X8 airframe? Can you share some specs about the motors and props used for VTOL and straight flight engine? Thank you.

  • Congrats Sander! Your build looks fantastic and very high quality. I'm only days away from doing my first test flight on an X8 quadplane myself. I'll be placing a build log on ArduPilot blog in about a week if interested. I'm confident you will do extremely well with this. X8 is a very popular plane and being able to convert is to VTOL will be a real winner. Keep up the great work.

  • Thank´s Sander.

  • 100KM

    @Rob, it tries to maintain a sensible airspeed throughout the flight irrespective of either up or down wind so you will see the velocity change linear to the wind speed. We rate the DeltaQuad safe for flight in winds up to 23Kph with max 30Kph gusts. We have flown it in 28Kph constant / 40Kph gust where it did not fail but we would not recommend those conditions with payload.

    The onboard software uses it's internet connection to verify weather conditions and can be configured to ground the vehicle when the conditions are deemed unsafe. As i mentioned in my earlier comment we are currently finalizing a new version that will automatically tune the vehicle to the conditions at hand. 

  • Ok, yes, I assumed that you used low wind conditions as most do for these tests.  How sensitive is the airframe to windspeed:  ie: how steep is the power/speed curve as it's flying upwind? 

  • 100KM

    @cala if you are flying manually there should be no problem. for autonomous flight you will need either an airspeed sensor or examine your flightstacks options for flying safely without one

  • Nice build

  • 100KM

    @rob We selected mild wind conditions so we could achieve 100K over ground without the need to compensate for crosswind flight, the wind was approximately 10kph. 


    I made an assumption that Ardupilot has a mode to fly on a fixed groundspeed based on the comment made by Hugues, if this is incorrect my apologies. The DeltaQuad is tuned with an initial throttle setting for level cruise flight, this is tuned specifically to the drive on the DeltaQuad From there it applies scaling based on roll, pitch and altitude setpoint but also voltage whereby it effectively maintains the watt's constant. We are currently finalizing our onboard software that performs both pre-flight and continues calculations to tune thrust based on it's mission, the weather conditions, the altitude and the air pressure.

    Here's a graph for this effect from the 100k flight:
    Blue: thrust, Green: Voltage, Red: scale factor (values are scaled for visibility)

  • I´m building a Phantom Fx61, ardu plane quadplane without airspeed, that can be a problem? , I never use airspeed in standard airplanes and no issues.

  • Developer

    @hugues unlike Ardupilot the deltaquad employs a method for flying without an airspeed sensor that does not rely on GPS. Rather it factors in things like attitude, altitude and voltage.

    Can you elaborate on this a bit more? I'm also not sure what you mean by the ArduPilot method. Perhaps you think ArduPilot uses synthetic airspeed for speed/height control when it doesn't have an airspeed sensor? (it doesn't)

    I'm really curious how voltage comes into it!

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