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People take different roads seeking fulfilment and happiness. Just because they are not on your road doesn’t mean they have gotten lost. H. Jackson Brown, Jr.
African Pilot’s September 2018 edition
The September edition contains African Pilot’s extensive annual EAA AirVenture 2018 report, a brief report on the Farnborough airshow as well as our annual Avionics and Instrumentation feature. The reason for this is that most Avionics OEMs launch their new kit at AirVenture every year. Thank you to all those aviation companies that supported this edition, which will be widely distributed to all aviation businesses at AAD2018 in September. The September edition is complete and entered its distribution phase this past week. In addition, African Pilot has engaged many Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) into the process of receiving the monthly magazine as a digital copy.
African Pilot’s October 2018 edition
The main feature of the October edition will African Pilot’s annual AMOs and Refurbishment section. In addition, this edition will carry a report on the Rand airshow and the Royal International Air Tattoo. The closing date for this edition is on Wednesday 5 September.
For advertising positions, please contact Lara Bayliss Cell: 079 880 4359 Tel: 0861 001130 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org for inclusion into this edition. Thank you.
What has changed at African Pilot?
Now you can get your favourite aviation magazine online
As our digital capability has grown substantially, we have also developed aviation news blasts within the week. We have re-designed the option for the electronic version of African Pilot to be uploaded via our website.
The cost of a single download is R18 (US$2) or R180 (US$20) for a 12-month subscription. In addition, we have created several other options. If you happened to miss out on a particular article or edition, back editions are available. In an effort to increase our digital footprint, African Pilot’s digital edition has now been made available on just about every digital device in production today, including iPads and iPhones through the iTunes Store, all Android devices through Google’s Play Store, Windows 8, Kindle Fire, Nook and Web. We have achieved this by partnering with a multitude of digital publishing platforms, the most noteworthy of which is Magzter, the world’s largest digital magazine newsstand with over 10 000+ magazines in its catalogue. Subscribers through our own website will still be able to enjoy the magazine as a download at:
Video of the week
Boeing 747-8F goes on roller coaster flight
Tom Willows an AMO at Rand Airport is looking for a Tri-pacer or Colt airframe (derelict), which he wants to stretch it and make it into a tail dragger similar to PA 12 or 14. Please contact Tom on Cell: 082 336 7262
SOUTH AFRICAN AVIATION NEWS
GippsAero sells first Airvan GA-10 into Botswana
On Monday 20 August Mahindra the holding company of GippsAero announced the sale of the first GA-10 Airvan to Major Blue a charter and scenic flight operator based at Maun International Airport in Botswana. Presently Maun airport has 31 Airvan GA-8s in operation with six operators. The GA8 TC version features one Textron Lycoming TIO-540-AH1A cylinder direct drive fuel injected turbo charged engine rated at 320hp. This light utility aircraft is operated by one pilot and provides seating for seven passengers. Most operators were present at a dinner hosted by Airvan Africa at the Maun Lodge when the announcements were made by Keith Douglas, CEO of Airvan Australia.
Three important announcements were made:
1) An Airvan spares depot is to be established in Maun
2) The Sub-dealer for Airvan Africa will be Aviation Craft in Botswana
3) The first Airvan GA-10 sold to Major Blue Charters owned by Mr Singh from Botswana
Mr S.P. Shukla (group president) Mahindra Aerospace and Defence introduced the Airvan GA-8 operators to the sheer size of the Mahindra Group, which employs in excess of 240 000 people world wide.
The Rolls Royce turboprop Airvan GA-10 was developed and certified by GippsAero, Australia. This aircraft has been under development for two and a half years. The GA-10 Airvan is also certified by the US Federal Aviation Administration, the Botswana Civil Aviation Authority and the South African Civil Aviation Authority. This version is basically a stretched GA-8 operated by a single pilot and can carry nine passengers. Very few new aircraft types have been certified post 2000 and the GA-10 will be the newest certified aircraft to enter African skies. By 2019 the type will also be certified for floats. Assembly takes place in two different parts of the factory so that parts will not be mixed up. The Rolls Royce turboprop engine delivers 450 shaft horse power (shp) for take-off and 380 shp for cruise.
Gippsland Aeronautics is based in the Latrobe Valley in south eastern Australia. Airvan Africa (Pty) Ltd is the exclusive distributor of GA8 and GA10 Airvans in Africa.
Comair acquires leadership development consultancy Metaco
Last week Comair announced that it had acquired the leadership development consultancy firm, Metaco Holdings (Pty) Ltd, as part of its diversification strategy. CEO Erik Venter says the acquisition fits well with its training business that already encompasses courses for pilots, cabin crew, ground operations staff and travel and tourism. “Through our existing client base, we have seen the demand for leadership and team coaching and Metaco fits this requirement. Comair has evolved from operating two airline brands into an aviation group, with operations in aviation training, catering, hospitality, tourism and airport lounges. We are now balancing the capital-intensive airline business with new business units that are more reliant on intellectual capital and have a different revenue cycle and cost base.” Venter notes that Comair has worked extensively with Metaco over the past two years.
New aircraft type for Kruger National Park
The Kruger National Park’s anti-poaching capabilities are set to receive a boost with the delivery of a new Foxbat A22LS that was ordered last year and is being sponsored by the MyPlanet Rhino Fund initiative. The Rhino Fund was created through a partnership between MySchool MyVillage MyPlanet, the Endangered Wildlife Trust and conservationist Braam Malherbe. More than R1 million was raised by the fund in 2017 for the donation of the aircraft.
The two-seat Foxbat is built and distributed by Aeroprakt South Africa and with more than 50 flying in this country. The A22LS was designed for rough field operations with oversize main gear tyres and its low stall speed (52 km/h) is ideally suited to surveying, photography, anti-poaching patrols and wildlife monitoring. It also offers excellent all-round visibility. It can carry a payload of 200 kg and cruises at 160 km/h while consuming 17 litres of Mogas per hour. It has an aluminium fuselage and is more robust than the Bat Hawk light sport aircraft presently being flown by South African National Parks.
SANParks has a growing number of aircraft in its fleet. The Kruger National Park started out with two helicopters and now has four Airbus Squirrel single-engine helicopters (two of which were acquired through money donated by the Howard Buffet Foundation), three Bat Hawk light sport aircraft, a Cessna 206 and a Cessna 182. One of the Bat Hawks recently had a new Rotax engine installed, replacing the out of production Camit engine, which was sponsored by the Honorary Rangers association
SANParks has not ruled out the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), but after trials with smaller drones some years back, it has realised that large and consequently expensive UAVs would be required. They need to be able to fly in most weather conditions, have a good sensor payload and long endurance, which are shortcomings with the small civil UAVs that were evaluated and found to be inadequate.
The majority of SANParks air wing flights are in support of anti-poaching activities but other taskings include casualty evacuation, rescuing snared animals, game counting, slinging darted animals as well as tracking escaped animals.
Andrew Desmet, a Kruger section ranger and pilot, flies the Bat Hawk almost every day, typically for two to three hours, although some anti-poaching missions may last for five hours. He said the Bat Hawk is the most inexpensive aircraft flown by SANParks, as it costs around R500 000 to purchase and uses around 12 litres an hour of car fuel. By comparison, the Squirrel helicopters cost SANParks in the region of R12 000 per hour to operate. According to Desmet, the Bat Hawk is ideal for surveillance as it flies low and slow (often 200 feet above the ground), with excellent visibility. The Bat Hawk is favoured by parks for wildlife conservation for these reasons.
Desmet said most flying is anti-poaching related, and it is unlikely this will be reduced anytime soon. Other tasks including animal spotting and counting. Even though aircraft may not spot poachers from the air, they often prevent them from breaking cover and moving, allowing rangers on the ground to catch up with them. Desmet said it’s also a morale boost for those on the ground. He emphasised that assets like aircraft and dogs are tools and that the most important asset is the ranger on the ground.
Desmet said anti-poaching operations are ‘war’, with daily incursions and constant pressure. “There are multiple daily incursions in the northern sector part of the park. Every day poachers enter the park armed, whilst at times rangers take hostile fire. Unfortunately poaching is also carried out by those who are supposed to be looking after the animals. “It’s a constant battle with the enemy within. The rewards for rhino horn are so great that people are enticed to follow that route.” As a result, when Desmet sees rhino he is very careful with whom he shares the information.
According to Grant Knight, SANParks chief pilot in the Kruger National Park, around 95% of flying is in support of anti-poaching operations. This includes flying at night with night vision goggles. Helicopters are the preferred aircraft as they can drop rangers and tracker dogs as well as police and forensic teams. Aircraft are also used to spot poachers and deter them through their presence alone.
Due to the risks involved in chasing armed poachers, SANParks pilots are issued with sidearms. These days surveillance aircraft are more regularly getting shot at, Knight said. While acknowledging that there is no single solution to fight the scourge of poaching, Knight said “the more tools we have in our toolbox, the better off we are.” Statistics show that rhino poaching in the Kruger National Park is on the decline. “The passion for the saving the rhino and other endangered species has touched many people and this is turning the tide,” Knight said.
What happened in aviation over the past week?
The SAPFA Sheila Taylor Fun Rally scheduled on Saturday 25 August at Krugersdorp Airfield was cancelled due to high winds and poor weather conditions. African Pilot will provide the new calendar date as soon as SAPFA lets me know when this navigation rally will take place.
Contact Frank Eckard Cell: 083 269 1516 E-mail: email@example.com
Bethlehem airshow 2018
By Charlie Hugo
The annual Bethlehem airshow is well known as being one of the coldest of the annual South African season. Fortunately this year we were treated to a rather warmer, although initially overcast airshow weather. The appreciative crowd was entertained throughout the day by South Africa’s top aerobatic teams. The dare devil FMX motorcycle team performed their high flying stunts before Nigel Hopkins thrilled the crowd with his ultra-low level pass under a summersaulting motorcycle. Unfortunately strong winds, which sprung up after lunch caused the cancellation of the second show of this stunt. The Puma Energy Flying Lions completed their afternoon show with a wall of fire and then we had the extremely thrilling high speed air race between Little Annie and a large tractor. A full report will be published in the October edition of African Pilot magazine.
What is scheduled for the next few weeks?
Contact e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
SAPFA Grand Central Fun Rally Grand Central Airport Midrand
Contact Rob Jonkers E-mail: email@example.com Cell: 082 804 7032
RV Day at Kitty Hawk
Contact Irmarie Jooste Tel: 012 802 0942
SAPFA Secunda Fun Rally Secunda Airfield
Contact Jonty Esser E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Cell: 082 855 9435
20 & 21 October
SAC North-West Regionals Klerksdorp airfield
Contact Annie Boon E-mail: email@example.com
23 & 24 October
Avi Afrique 2018 Africa Aviation Innovation Summit CSIR
Contact ATNS Percy Morokane E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
24 to 27 October
Marrakech airshow RMAF Military Base, Marrakech, Morocco
Contact Houda Medkouri e-mail: email@example.com
6 to 8 November
Dubai Helishow Royal Pavilion Al Maktoum Airport
Contact Mr Abel Bajamunde E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
SAPFA Fun Rally at Springs Airfield
Contact Jonty Esser E-mail: email@example.com Cell: 082 855 9435
1 & 2 December
SAC ACE of Base Brits airfield
Contact Annie Boon E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
We will be opening the 2019 aviation calendar shortly, so please start thinking about the most suitable date(s) for your planned events or airshow.
AFRICAN AVIATION NEWS
SA Express (SAX) announced it resumed operations on Thursday 23 August 2018
This follows the recent reinstatement of both the airline’s Air Operator’s Certificate (AOC) and Aircraft Maintenance Organisation (AMO) licences by the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA).
SAX has also already received Certificates of Airworthiness for most of its 11 aircraft from SACAA, with the remaining fleet expected to be given the green light soon. “We are delighted that we have now satisfied the concerns that the regulator had leading to our temporary grounding at the end of May this year. This has paved the way for us to prudently and incrementally reintroduce our flights as from 23 August 2018,” SAX Interim CEO, Siza Mzimela said. “We would like to thank all our valued customers and loyal staff for bearing with us while we were addressing the regulators operational requirements,” she added. “Indeed, our temporary grounding was an opportune time for the airline to interrogate all aspects of our operation, as well as our customer value proposition.
“It’s all systems go now and we are coming back stronger, more focused and energised. In this regard, we are determined going forward to set new industry standards for safety, product quality and customer service,” the upbeat Mzimela said.
WORLD AVIATION NEWS
Swedish JAS 39 Gripen crashes after bird strike
On 21 August a Saab JAS 39 Gripen fighter jet from the Swedish Air Force crashed near Ronneby, in the south of Sweden. The Swedish Armed Forces reports that the fighter hit a bird mid flight. The JAS 39 Gripen is a light multirole fighter developed by Swedish manufacturer Saab. With only a single engine, a bird collision is a particularly critical incident for the aircraft. The pilot successfully ejected and was then recovered by an emergency helicopter. He was transported to a hospital. The plane crashed about eight kilometres north of Ronneby in a forest, causing no material damage. However, the crash site is in a very rough terrain making it difficult for the firefighters to access it, according to Swedish media Expressen. The burning wreckage combined with dry land could potentially lead to yet another forest fire in Sweden, already ravaged by wildfires since the beginning of the season. On 25 July the Swedish Armed Forces used a JAS 39 Gripen to extinguish a fire with a rather unconventional method: by dropping a 200 kilogram GBU-12 Laser Guided Bomb. The explosion burnt the oxygen and thus instantly smothered the fire.
Russia opens criminal investigation of Red Wings engine fire
On 22 August 2018, Red Wings Flight WZ-808 was attempting a take-off from Ufa, when its left engine caught fire. Pilot of the aircraft made a decision to abort the take-off, after he noticed the first signs of the plane’s technical malfunction. With more than 200 passengers on board the aircraft had to make an emergency landing at Ufa airport. Passengers and crew were not injured. Later that day Red Wings reported the passengers of a night flight were safely transported to the airport in Sochi. “The flight was performed by a reserve Tu-204 aircraft, which was sent to Ufa from the Domodedovo airport (DME) after a night incident.” Immediately after the incident Federal Air Transport Agency (Rosaviatsia) established a special Commission to investigate the reasons of WZ-808 flight engine fire, opening a criminal case on the safety rules and operation of air transport violation.
Qatar sells the world's largest private plane
Qatar Amiri Flight, an airline owned and operated by the government of Qatar, put one of its two Boeing 747-8i aircraft on sale. The aircraft is known to be ‘the largest private aircraft in the world.’ The Qatar government received the aircraft, registered VQ-BSK, in 2015. It has accumulated 436 flight hours and 200 cycles. The total cost of the private superjumbo has not been made public, but the list price of a new equipment of this model is approximately 370 million dollars.
The Boeing 747-8i in question is designed to carry 76 passengers and 18 crew members. In contrast, a Boeing 747 can carry 400 in a three-class commercial use configuration. Without this aircraft, the Qatar Amiri Flight fleet includes three A340s, two A330s, eight A320s, one A310, another B747-8i plus several C-17s and C130s.
Gulfstream G-IV with blown tyres lands safely in New York State
There were some tense moments in the skies over the US east coast on Tuesday after a Gulfstream G-IV had at least two of its tyres blow out on take-off from Teterboro Airport (KTEB) in New Jersey.
Among the 16 people aboard the jet was rapper Post Malone, who was traveling to London’s Luton airport. Fox News reports that the airplane was carrying 3,700 gallons of fuel and it circled over northern New Jersey to burn off fuel before attempting the landing. The airplane landed safely just before 16h00 at Stewart International Airport. The FAA said in a statement that the airplane was towed to the rampa and all onboard were safe.
HMS Queen Elizabeth sets off for F-35B fighter jet trials
Eight years since a British aircraft carrier last flew a fast jet from her decks, the HMS Queen Elizabeth carrier will embark two F-35B test aircraft, from the Integrated Test Force (ITF), based out of Naval Air Station Patuxent River, MD. Around 200 supporting staff, including pilots, engineers, maintainers and data analysts will be joined by two ‘orange wired’ test aircraft, belonging to the ITF, which are expected to conduct 500 take offs and landings during its 11-week period at sea. The aim of these initial, or ‘developmental’ trials are to ascertain, through the specially equipped aircraft and sensors around the ship, the operating parameters of the aircraft and ship, in a range of conditions. Similar successful trials were conducted by HMS Queen Elizabeth at sea earlier this year for Rotary Wing aircraft.
Four F 35B Lightning developmental test pilots, who are members of the ITF, will embark to fly the aircraft; three British, one American. The British personnel comprise a Royal Navy Commander, a Squadron Leader from the Royal Air Force and one civilian test pilot. They will be joined by a Major from the US Marine Corps.
The trials follow the recent arrival into the UK of the first joint Royal Navy, Royal Air Force F-35B jets, based at RAF Marham. ‘Operational testing’, utilising British F-35B aircraft are scheduled to take place on board HMS Queen Elizabeth next year. The deployment, known as ‘WESTLANT 18’, will be the first-time HMS Queen Elizabeth will have sailed across the Atlantic. As well as the vital deck trials, it will also involve exercises to prove the ability to operate with other nations’ maritime and aviation assets, as well as the landing of Royal Marines and their equipment ashore in the United States, to conduct training with their U.S. counterparts.
The ship will conduct trials in U.K. waters over the coming days, before departing for the United States later this month. She will be joined by RFA Tiderace and Plymouth-based type-23 frigate HMS Monmouth, as well as Merlin Mk2 helicopters from 820 Naval Air Squadron, RNAS Culdrose, Mk 4 Merlins from 845 Naval Air Squadron, RNAS Yeovilton and a contingent of Royal Marines from 42 Commando, Plymouth.
Gulf Air becomes the first national carrier to fly the A320neo in the region
Gulf Air, the flag carrier of the Kingdom of Bahrain, has taken delivery of its first A320neo. The aircraft, powered by CFM LEAP-1A engines, made its maiden journey from Toulouse to Bahrain. The aircraft is the first of the 29 A320neo Family aircraft ordered during the 2016 Bahrain International Airshow. This delivery also makes Gulf Air the first Middle Eastern national carrier to fly the A320neo. Gulf Air currently operates 28 Airbus aircraft. The new addition complements the airline’s existing fleet and thanks to Airbus’ overall fleet commonality, the airline will benefit from low operating costs, optimum fuel efficiency and seamless, best-in-class passenger comfort of any single aisle aircraft.
Etihad B777 fire in cargo hold blamed on manufacturing defect
An Etihad Boeing 777-300, registration A6-ETR performing flight EY-450 from Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates to Sydney, Australia was diverted to Adelaide, Australia on 14 October 2017, after the flight crew received a cargo smoke alert. In its final report published on 22 August 2018, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau points at an incorrect positioning of the wiring during assembly that led to wire chafing and arcing. Flight crew first noticed a burning smell coming from an air vent. When they received a forward cargo fire signal, the pilots activated the pilots armed the fire system that discharged two extinguishers. After sending a MAYDAY to air traffic control, the plane was allowed to divert to Adelaide where it landed. Upon inspection by the emergency services using a thermal camera, no live fire was found. The 349 people on board evacuated the aircraft normally, using stairs down to the taxiway. A preliminary inspection revealed soot and fire damage in the cargo hold ceiling. After the plane returned to the United Arab Emirates for a closer inspection, Etihad engineers determined that the damage was caused by a wire that was chaffed after it came into contact with screws used to seal the cargo ceiling panel, leading to an electric arc. This conclusion was confirmed by Boeing engineers. It was eventually found that ‘The wiring loom W5279 was likely to have been incorrectly positioned during the aircraft build in 2013.’
WW2 bomb found at Brussels airport, safety perimeter established
On 20 August 2018 a bomb from the Second World War was discovered under the apron of Brussels Airport (BRU) in Belgium. The ordnance was later defused in the night between 21 and 22 August. The bomb was discovered during construction work in the cargo area of Brucargo, ‘under the apron 9’ according to Brussels Airport. After the enforcement of a 100 meter safety perimeter, the demining service of the Belgian army (Dienst voor de opruiming en vernietiging van ontploffingstuigen / Service d’Enlèvement et de Destruction d’Engins Explosifs) assessed that the device did not present any immediate threat. It later successfully neutralised the bomb ‘without having to detonate it’.
Despite several flights being affected to other runways because of the safety perimeter around apron 9, there was no impact on air traffic at the airport.
Air France-KLM woes deepen as Dutch pilots threaten to strike
Like their colleagues at sister company Air France, the pilots at KLM Royal Dutch Airlines threatened to take industrial action if their claims were not satisfied by 17 August 2018. Vereniging Nederlandse Verkeersvliegers (VNV), the main pilot union at KLM, sent a letter to its members explaining that if measures were not taken by parent company Air France-KLM to lighten the workload of its pilots, a strike would be called on 17 August 2018. The letter was published in Dutch media De Telegraaf.
The decision follows failed negotiations on 10 August 2018, after which KLM recognised the situation reached a ‘difficult phase’ resulting in a deadlock. “KLM takes the objections and wishes of its pilots seriously,” says the company in an official statement. “KLM believes that, in combination with the previously negotiated agreement in principle, this package should bring about the desired reduction in work pressure and improvement of the work-life balance of pilots.” The airline refused to disclose the content of the package in order not to interfere with the negotiations. KLM previously tabled a draft agreement including a 4% raise in wage and an increase of holidays starting in 2019. However, the union rejected the proposal, demanding for the measures to be enforced retroactively on the whole of the 2018 year.
Rocketmine secures contracts with African mining giants
Rocketmine, a subsidiary of the international Delta Drone Group (EPA:ALDR), continues to affirm its’ position as the drone service providing leader in UAV (drone) solutions for the mining sector. The company has procured contracts with mining giants throughout Africa. A contract renewal with South African mining giant, Exxaro Resources Group sees Rocketmine providing survey and mapping solutions to the Grootegeluk site in the Limpopo Province. This forms part of their plan to evolve towards the ‘digitized mine of the future’ concept where real-time mine planning and execution can be conducted to improve mining efficiency and production.
Grootegeluk mine is Exxaro’s largest opencast mine in the southern hemisphere. This particular site inhabits various hazards and dangers to the surveyors. The survey and mapping solution was aimed to get surveyors out of dangerous areas to increase safety and data turnaround time. One of Exxaro’s primary driving force in optimizing efficiency of their operations is to meet the demand requirements of the Medupi power station. “Our professional service and accurate data have been our greatest advocates. While safety and our cost-effective approaches contribute to a more streamlined and productive output on-site assisting the client achieve their targets,” explains Rocketmine MD, Christopher Clark.
The second contract acquisition sees Rocketmine taking to the skies in Namibia. Rio Tinto’s first commercial uranium mine, Rössing Uranium, had supplied a total of 132,610 tonnes of uranium oxide to the world by the end of 2017. To achieve the best possible grade of uranium, Rössing Uranium Mine achieves this by optimising the accuracy of planning. This requires regular and accurate stockpile movements. “The integration of drone technology at Rössing Uranium Mine will enhance operational efficiencies pertaining to planning by providing expeditious accurate data,” shares Mr Clark.
Rocketmine secured two other contracts in West Africa. Newcrest Mining Limited in Côte d’Ivoire and Newmont Akyem to provide mine blast monitoring and fragmentation analysis and survey mapping respectively.
“The global cumulate amount for these African projects over the next three years equates close to €1 000 000. These mines are clear cases that the future of the mining will utilise technology not only to find innovative solutions but to decrease their carbon footprint,” concludes Mr Clark.
National University of Singapore (NUS) introduces solar drone
A team from the National University of Singapore (NUS) has achieved a major step forward in stretching the capabilities of quadcopter drones by powering the flight solely by natural sunlight.
A first in Asia, the current prototype has flown above 10 metres (approx. 33 feet) in test flights; higher than a typical three story building using solar power with no battery or other energy storage on board.
This solar-powered drone, which was developed as a student project under the Innovation & Design Programme (iDP) at NUS Faculty of Engineering, can take-off and land vertically without a runway. Constructed using lightweight carbon fibre material, the quadcopter drone weighs only six pounds and has a surface area of about 43 square feet. It is fitted with 148 individually characterised silicon solar cells and supported by a frame equipped with four rotors.
Rotary winged aircraft are significantly less efficient at generating lift compared to their fixed wing counterparts. While there have been examples of solar airplanes in recent years, a viable 100 percent solar rotary aircraft that can take-off and land vertically remains a major engineering challenge.
“Our aircraft is extremely lightweight for its size and it can fly for hours as long as there is sunlight. Unlike conventional quadcopter drones, our aircraft does not rely on on-board batteries and hence it is not limited by flight time. Its ability to land on any flat surface and fly out of the ground effect in a controlled way also makes it suitable for practical implementation,” said Associate Professor Aaron Danner from the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at NUS Faculty of Engineering, who supervised the project.
The solar-powered quadcopter drone can be controlled by remote control or programmed to fly autonomously using a GPS system incorporated into the aircraft. The aircraft can potentially be used as a ‘flying solar panel’ to provide emergency solar power to disaster areas, as well as for photography, small package delivery, surveillance and inspection. Batteries can be incorporated to power the aircraft when there is no sunlight or for charging to take place during flight to enable operation when it is cloudy or dark. Other hardware such as cameras can also be included for specific applications.
Since 2012, eight NUS student teams have made successive design improvements and worked towards a fully-solar powered aircraft under the supervision of Assoc. Prof. Danner, who also holds a joint appointment at the Solar Energy Research Institute of Singapore at NUS. The first solar-assisted quadcopter drone developed by students in 2012 could only achieve 45 percent of flight power from solar cells and the rest from on-board batteries. The latest team, comprising then-final year NUS Engineering students Mr. Goh Chong Swee, Mr. Kuan Jun Ren and Mr. Yeo Jun Han, made further refinements to the earlier prototypes of the quadcopter drone. They eventually achieved a fully solar-powered flight with their latest prototype. The team members, who have just graduated from NUS in July 2018, were jointly supervised by Mr. Brian Shohei Teo from the iDP programme for this project.
“We encountered many engineering challenges when building the drone,” Yeo said. “These included finding an optimal number of solar cells efficient and light enough to power the propulsion system, which in turn has to be light and at the same time able to produce sufficient thrust to lift the aircraft. Other issues we faced included tuning and calibration of flight controls to enhance flight stability, as well as designing a frame that is lightweight yet sufficiently rigid. This has been an excellent learning opportunity for us.” The team will continue to fine-tune the aircraft to further improve its efficiency. With these enhancements, they hope to bring the technology closer to commercialisation.
Colorado Springs Police Department launching drone fleet
The Colorado Springs Police Department has purchased eight drones and will train as many as 40 officers to fly them in hope of replacing two helicopters the department sold in 2010 during the economic downturn. Television station KDRO reports that the CSPD has purchased DJI Mavic’s, Phantom 4s and an Inspire 2 drone that will be flown in the city’s four patrol districts. One of the Phantoms will be equipped with an infrared camera for night operations. Lt. Dan Lofgren was part of the helicopter tactical team and now he is putting together a different kind of aviation division. He said 13 officers have already completed training and are ready to begin flying the department’s drones right now. “If we can use this tool, this piece of equipment, to make the first contact on locating a suspect, versus sending officer in there and encountering a suspect that is waiting for them who could be armed and often times are armed, that we’re searching for, that’s tremendous,” Lofgren told the station.
The department has invested about $30,000 in drone hardware so far. That number does not include the 10-15 hours training required for each officer to receive a Part 107 certification. Then, they have to learn to fly the drones. The CSPD does not plan to use the drones for routine patrols, but will deploy them in specific situations. The department also says that it will be ‘sensitive’ to citizen’s privacy concerns.
Drones assisting in coca plant eradication in Colombia
The Colombian government is testing a fleet of 10 drones to destroy coca plants that are used in the production of cocaine. Drone DJ relays a report from the Wall Street Journal which indicates that the new President of Colombia, Iván Duque, prefers using drones over manned aircraft to protect neighbouring crops from damage. The tests are being conducted in the southwestern portion of Nariño province. The drones carry the herbicide Glyphosate, a defoliant and spray the coca plants with far greater accuracy than could be achieved using more traditional methods. The previous President of Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos, had halted spraying by 14 crop duster airplanes after local farmers filed lawsuits who were concerned about their health. Glyphosate has been linked to some cancers by the World Health Organization.
The US EPA has said that glyphosate is ‘unlikely’ to cause cancer. The chemical has been part of a $10 billion foreign aid package called ‘Plan Colombia’. Use of the chemical reduced the country’s coca fields from 470,000 acres in 2001 to 193,000 acres in 2012. But by 2017, the acreage had again increased 160 percent to 516,000 acres. The drones have been provided by Fumi Drones SAS. German Huertas, director of operations at Fumi Drone says that the aircraft can eliminate about 90 percent of the crops on every acre of coca plants. They also fly lower to the ground and do not pose a safety hazard to pilots flying close to the ground, Huertas said. The company is also training local police to fly the aircraft.
The downside is that the drones carry a much smaller load of the defoliant than a crop duster and police must cordon off an area to be sprayed to prevent local farmers from being exposed or cocaine manufacturers from shooting them out of the air. There are also a large number of landmines buried in many regions from a long rebel conflict in Colombia, which can pose additional threats to soldiers and drone pilots.
Weekly News from African Pilot
Should you miss out on any edition of APAnews, please visit the website: www.africanpilot.co.za and click on the APAnews link on the front page. All past weekly APAnews publications have been archived on the website.
Until next week, please be ‘Serious about flying’.
Athol Franz (Editor)
African Pilot ‘Serious about flying’.
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