Drones in the news

3689471955?profile=originalAdaptive Flight was contacted by CNN and ask to bring a UAV down to the studio and fly it on live camera while talking about it with the host Don Lemon.  So we took a Hornet Micro and headed down to the studio.  It was a lot of fun to show off this technology and put in a positive plug for domestic use of UAV's.  

William Robinson was the one on camera and I was the one behind the controls of the helicopter.  This is a fully functional UAV system that was used in this video, but I was flying it manually because of it being indoors and the hundreds of thousands of dollars of equipment that is all around in the studio.  Still, it was a lot of fun and great to see everyone's reaction the first time I took off!  

Here is a link to the CNN Video

and here is a link to to Adaptive Flight's website 

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  • Hi Garry, 

    I remember that demo very well.  It was the last time that I flew Hornets at Webster Field (sad they took away the live demo portion of the conference).  We measured wind gusts of 21mph on the ground that day while I was flying.  I did have a little trouble landing on the top of the van because of the wind, but it only require a few more seconds to line it up properly in the camera.  Thanks for your post!

  • I was just telling some of my summer students about seeing some of the smallest Adaptive Flight copters fly a couple of years ago, at the AUVSI demo day at Webster Field.  It was gusty enough that day that I assumed the little ones would stay on the ground, but they flew their demo as planned.  With one of them parked in GPS-hold mode about 20 feet from me, I couldn't tell it was a gusty day by watching the copter.  It was really locked in place.  I was impressed enough to still be telling the story as an example of how well these things can perform if you really do all the math, buy the best sensors & actuators, get your inner loop really screaming, and spend the time to really dial things in.  

  • Hi Martin, 

    You are correct.  The system flown  for the demonstration started as a T-Rex 450.  I then designed new lower side frames, lower plate, landing gear, and canopy. There were a few other modifications required to make it an unmanned system.  It has been working well for us over the last few years, but by all means, if you know of something better in this size/weight class (must be helicopter though not multirotor, that is a different project), please let me know, I am always open for suggestions.

    As for the other vehicles and videos shown during the CNN spot, I would agree with you that they were not the best clips to show.  Especially the tethered T-Hawk and Reapers shooting missiles.  I do not like the connection they were trying to make, but we had no control over that.  From the feedback I have received over the last 12 hours, I would say it has been a positive step for Adaptive Flight to be spotlighted on CNN.  Although only time will tell.  =)

  • Here is a link to the second half of the segment aired last night.  

  • Hi Jack,

    Thanks for reading this post.  

    I agree with you that the video quality shown on the air was certainly not on par with our normal video quality and was actually quite horrible.  This was in no part due to our video equipment, nor was it due to interference from any of the equipment in the studio.  The main reason the video quality was poor was the difference between fielded live video equipment and in studio broadcast quality equipment.  When our L3 receiver was plugged into the CNN system, the NTSC sync kept shifting in and our of sync with the studio causing the "interference" you saw in the clip.  The standards in the studio's broadcast quality equipment are much tighter than what is normally used in the field.  If you were watching my operator interface on my ground control station, you would have seen perfect video as I was seeing.  It was unfortunate that we did not have the time to resolve these issues before going on air, but you do what you can with the time that you have.  

    As for digital video, well, again, you do what you can with what you have.  All of our demo equipment is currently sitting in Las Vegas awaiting AUVSI's Unmanned Systems Conference next week.  So the vehicle you saw on air was an older vehicle that was left back at the lab, but it is no slouch.  It is using an L3 analog Tx onboard (our old video system) that is fully capable of reaching out beyond 8 miles in line of sight in normal operations with our patch antenna setup (this is the same system that was used by Scan Eagle before they switched to their new digital link).  The normal performance you get out of this system is rock solid (as I was seeing on my screen).  The current generation of Hornets are all sporting digital video links, but again, you do what you can with what you have available.

    As for the indoor autopilot flying, no, this system was never designed to be an indoor system.  It was designed to fly outdoors with GPS enabled, that is where it excels.  With that being stated, you are more than welcome to come watch the daily demo of indoor GPS denied flight during next weeks Unmanned Systems Conference in Las Vegas.  When flying in this mode, the operator is now in charge of stopping the helicopter from drifting around (or using that out of trim condition to control the position of the helicopter).  The autopilot still has the altitude and heading loops closed, but it's now just stabilizing the vehicle and keeping it's rotors facing the proper direction.  If you have ever flown a 450 size helicopter, you will know that they are like little insects bumping around and always trying to move somewhere else.  There is no such thing as a longer than 5 second, hands off, trimmed, non-translating, stable hover with a helicopter this size.  That means that even though the helicopter is stabilized and won't fall out of the air or roll over, there are a lot of operator inputs required to keep up with it is small confined spaces.  To add to the situation, the operator is not in direct control of the vehicle, the autopilot is doing all of the flying, the user is just trimming it for level flight in GPS denied mode.  Now add hundreds of thousands of dollars of camera and other video and lighting equipment to that confined space and you should understand why the helicopter was manually flown for this demo.

    Now about your last statement.

    "Can't believe he's still not showing digital video & indoor autopilot, like the unemployed masses have been putting him out of business with for years."  

    All I am going to say to this is that business is good, increasing in fact, and I would put this system up against any of the systems you were referring to in your statement any day of week for an outdoor fly off (remember, that is what this system was designed for, not indoor flight) and have 100% confidence that it will come out on top. 

    It was a fun experience and I thank CNN for giving us the opportunity to show off a small piece of the UAV world to the rest of the world!

  • Looks like an Align 450 with a body kit. What a piece of Junk. If you watched the video. One drone is tetherd, The other a 22 lb heli and a Reaper. The digital system weighs as much as the whole heli itself. CNN is so not the place to show this, unless you want your business to fail.  I hate when they compare the camera views to these things.

  • That's normal picture quality for 1990's era 2.4Ghz video in an environment with lots of computers.  Can't believe he's still not showing digital video & indoor autopilot, like the unemployed masses have been putting him out of business with for years.

  • Very cool! Must have been all that studio equipment causing video issues.


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