On the first day of the Commercial UAV Expo in Las Vegas today, FlightWave Aerospace introduced their latest product: the Jupiter Tricopter.
Tricopter is a word we don’t hear all the time in the drone industry. “Approaching a 10-year-old saturated market, we came out with something unique… it’s something special,” says Edmund Cronin, FlightWave’s Chief Market Officer.
The company is using theories from rocketry – thrust vector control – with their patented tilt-pod technology, which creates the thrust needed to fly in the right direction with stability and precision. “The movements are smoother,” Cronin says. “It’s a scalpel vs. a hammer.” What the tilt-pod technology does is eliminate wobble and bounce in the flight – important for indoor and outdoor uses.
“The level of control on this is amazing,” says Cronin. “When pilots see it, they freak out – they realize they’re going to be able to fly inside much closer than things.” That has the potential for numerous applications: the precision makes it possible not only getting closer to items in warehouses, but it could enable flight nearer to people, or for better detailed inspections.
While the handling is designed to be precise and elegant, the aircraft is designed for industrial use. “Picture a tough-as-nails pickup truck, one of the all-wheel-drive workhorses shown in Super Bowl commercials,” says a company release. “That’s the best metaphor for our Jupiter tricopter: no-nonsense, all muscle, made for missions where durability, stamina and control are required…The same engineering magic that provided precision control for the Edge-130 UAS is now available in a wingless craft — making it ideal for indoor use where precision in tight spaces is crucial. It’s an industrial-grade tool to get hard jobs done.”
Jupiter was developed for cutomer needs – with long endurance and the ability to lift heavy payloads. It’s optimized for a payload of about a kilogram – heavier than most commonly used cameras – and with that payload, you get a flight time of an hour or more. At full payload – more than 3 kilograms, or 7 pounds – the flight time is still 40 minutes.
Jupiter’s main features make it a compelling offering for industrial use:
- Battery Power: “We took the approach that you can’t just put a bigger battery on it, because that just adds more weight: weight always cuts down on flight time. So we designed our own battery to have the right amount of power, current, and weight,” says Cronin. The Jupiter battery has half a kilowatt hour of power, for endurance.
- Super-Optimized Power Management: “Powerlifting requires strong-but-efficient fans that maximize lift while minimizing energy drain,” says FlightWave. The tri-rotor design balances two strong forward fans with a double-size rear rotor.
- Precise Tilt-pods: The Jupiter Tri-Copter’s patented tilt-pods make thousands of subtle adjustments to the propeller position and propeller speed every second. This thrust-vectoring approach to controlling the airframe allows for millimeter precision. Jupiter tricopter’s tilt-pods keep the frame flat for smooth, precise, energy-efficient point-to-point movement.
- Economical: “Jupiter tricopter is a best-in-class and best-in-cost solution for companies that need a heavy-lift workhorse,” says the company. At about $5,000 for everything but the payload – including extra batteries – it’s very competitive with most other leading industrial platforms, and is manufactured in Santa Monica.
“The Jupiter tricopter is a small footprint, heavy lift, long-endurance and highly balanced craft that hits all the sweet spots of an industrial user. The Jupiter tricopter is a rugged, maneuverable, versatile drone with a lot of endurance,” says FlightWave. “It’s perfect for warehouse work, security surveillance, public safety and mining. The Jupiter tricopter also takes advantage of FlightWave’s open-source platform integration, which allows pilots to customize their missions, adding new sensors and software to be flown on what is arguably the hottest unmanned system unveiled this year.”
Units will be available for purchase in Q1 2020.