When you first see the h-aero™ aircraft in flight, it’s hard not to think of the old Superman theme: It’s a bird, it’s a plane, wait, wait, it’s… That’s because h-aero defies an easy, one word definition. The combination of balloon, helicopter, and airplane – flown remotely, so the word drone works too – doesn’t look exactly like anything else on the market. Dr. Scaba Singer, one of h-aero’s founders, says that’s the idea.
At this week’s InterGeo Conference in Stuttgart, the h-aero flew around the floor at Interaerial Solutions. Indoors, and over people’s heads, and in perfect safety – because the floating balloon style is lightweight, maneuverable, and very quiet. At a session on the h-aero and some of the innovative applications that the aircraft is being used for, Singer says that the h-aero dirigible combines the characteristics of a balloon, helicopter and airplane in order to keep the advantages of each aircraft while leaving behind the disadvantages.
h-aeroTM is the result of 20 years of top-level research at Stuttgart University and the German Aerospace Centre. They’re one of the first companies in Europe to receive certification for flight over people and sensitive areas. h-aero isn’t only quiet and safe, it has a practically limitless endurance: and can handle a wide variety of payloads, for a wide variety of applications. “It’s a low-altitude, pseudo satellite,” says Singer, adding another definition. Singer explains that the aircraft’s characteristics make it a good tool for applications that scale from smart cities to smart classrooms.
One of the exciting projects that h-aero is working on is creating aerial 3D reconstruction of antique buildings. h-aero’s unique design means that it is safe to use inside of priceless heritage buildings, where it cannot damage the structure by accidentally brushing against a surface. “The wider your field of view, the closer you must fly to get higher resolution, ” Singer explains. “With h-aero you can get better 3D models because you can get close. ” To get good models, the images collected must overlap by 80%: Singer says that with the aircraft’s 360 degree rotation for scanning and high controllability, it’s proven extremely effective.
Since the aircraft can carry multiple sensors at the same time, applications in agriculture and forestry, search and rescue, surveillance and inspections abound. The h-aero isn’t perfect for every mission: they aren’t the right solution for wind or rough weather. Despite obvious military applications, Singer says that the company is developing the product first for the civil market, which will help them lower their risk while increasing their learning curve.
As the h-aero finds more applications, the definition of h-aero’s unique characteristics may become less important: h-aero’s unique uses may say it all.