Interesting coaxial design coming from Ascent Aerosystems. In general coaxial designs have limited speed and maneuverability, but for the "aerial selfie" application this is designed for, that may be fine. I don't see a stabilizing gimbal, so I imagine this is mostly for still photos. Very portable and robust-looking design, however!
Tell us about yourself and a bit of your personal background.
Nate & Jon: We’re both aerospace engineers by education, fans of cool new technology by habit and small UAV designers by choice and by passion. We also happen to be twin brothers by genetics. We’re originally from the Boston area but we moved to the Phoenix area about 5 years ago.
Peter: I’m an incurable nut for everything that flies. I was one of those kids who always wanted to fly airplanes for a living, and I did that for about ten years. I made a switch to a more traditional business career in 2001.
We discussed how none of the conventional multirotors available at the time could be realistically brought along on a hike, climb or mountain bike ride.
What made you want to start Ascent AeroSystems?
Nate: Jon and I are avid outdoor enthusiasts, and a few years ago we were out rock climbing in Prescott, Arizona when we came across a situation where we really could have used an overhead view to help find a trail. On the walk back to the car we discussed how none of the conventional multirotors available at the time could be realistically brought along on a hike, climb or mountain bike ride. They’d be cumbersome, get in the way, and they just aren’t rugged enough. So being engineers, we started working on our own design. After literally dozens of tries over about two years, we finally got to a configuration that gave us a consistent, stable hover and good controllability. We started to circulate the concept on a few blogs dedicated to drone enthusiasts, and the level of interest expressed from all corners of the globe within just a few days blew us away. We thought maybe we were on to something. Along the way we had gotten to know Peter. He was familiar with the UAV business space and challenged us to really explore what we could do with the design. He’s tapped into what people want and expect from a product like this. Together we decided that we’d make a great team to bring the concept to market. In the time since, we’ve done a lot to develop the vehicle’s features, and we’re convinced we have the best aerial technology platform available anywhere.
What kind of experience have you had with UAV’s prior to this?
Nate: Jon and I flew RC planes when we were younger and as part of a design team in college, but we generally missed out on a lot of the early quadcopters. I think this is why we were quick to consider other configurations. We didn’t approach the design from “how to we make a quad rugged and portable.” It was obvious that kind of vehicle just wasn’t going to be. It was kind of like the old Henry Ford story…”if you would have asked people how to improve travel in the early 1900s, they would have designed a faster horse.”
Peter: I’ve been an avid RC builder and flier since…I forget when. Maybe 1980? Something like that. I’ve done quite a bit with fixed wing model airplanes, but I started flying RC helicopters with a model called the Cricket in the 1980s. I moved on to others over the years I always appreciated those that were really rugged. I only got my first quadcopter in early 2014, and I have a few in my workshop right now.
Please describe your UAV and your goal with it.
Ascent offers an unmanned aerial platform that’s unlike any other. Instead of four, six or even eight propellers spinning on the end of extended arms, our vehicles are coaxial designs with two stacked rotors spinning on a cylindrical airframe.
Everything is packed neatly and securely into that cylinder
and with rotor blades that automatically fold, it’s the most portable and most durable small unmanned aerial systems available. We believe that it is the ideal solution for active outdoor enthusiasts, professionals and commercial operators who are in need an aerial imaging platform that’s easy to transport and reliable enough to fly from even the most remote, rugged locations. We think it’s going to become the standard for UAV systems that are being put to serious work.
What sort of safety features will it have?
We’ve got a number of safety features that will help reduce risk to the operator and to the environment in which the vehicle is flying. We’ll be rolling out details as part of our product launch, and we’re committed to incorporating additional capabilities as they become available.
Who is this UAV intended for? Your target audience.
We have a number of designs in development, but the initial model is going to appeal to people who want a high-quality sensor platform that can be easily packed into a backpack and taken anywhere. It’s a tool, not a toy. For the outdoor enthusiast, it can shoot great “follow me” video footage while on a hike through the countryside, or it can go into the backcountry and take a beating. It’s water-resistant and it even floats, so water enthusiasts will be able to do things that up until now they could only dream about. Components like rotor blades can be changed in seconds, and larger components can be removed and replaced without tools. For the professional or commercial operator, time is money. They need a platform that can take knocks and dings and keep on going. This will be the system that they’ll be able to put to work, reliably, day after day. The modular design will make upgrades easy.
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