Flexrotor is a revolutionary drone that launches and lands just like a helicopter. However, this drone is also capable of transitioning to a fixed-wing flight that allows for longer endurance. Typically, drones are flown over land, but the Flexrotor is different. Developed by Aerovel, this drone is specially designed to operate over open waters.
One aspect of the Flexrotor drone that makes it unique is the fact that when landing and taking off, no additional infrastructure on a ship’s deck is required. Because of that, the drone is capable of operating from virtually any vessel. Once the Flexrotor drone becomes airborne, it quickly transitions to horizontal flight. This dramatically enhances its operational range.
As stated by Matt Parker, vice president of Precision Integrated Programs, the company slotted to be the first launch customer, the intended use for this drone was to cover areas over open water in search of tuna, as well as other fish, in an unforgiving environment that would be otherwise considered unsafe for a manned aircraft.
However, there are other intentions for using the Flexrotor drone, such as hunting poachers. Parker explained that for the first mission, the goal was to protect areas of protected marine life.
During that initial flight, the drone was at sea near Cocos Island, approximately 300 nautical miles from Costa Rica off the Pacific Coast. Not only were the protected marine life areas carefully monitored, the drone was used to check for any shark finners, illegal poachers, and other similar activity within those same areas.
In a more recent flight, the Flexrotor drone served a completely different purpose. Instead of protecting fish and looking for illegal activity, it successfully guided a fleet of ships through potentially dangerous ice in the Arctic Ocean.
As part of the Flexrotor’s design, it can carry as much as a 4.5-kilogram payload. If required, the drone can also be equipped with several sensors, including multispectral, infrared, and LIDAR, which is a remote sensing method whereby light in the form of a pulsed laser is used to measure variable distances to the earth.
Although the Flexrotor drone has been proven valuable for open-water searches, it is also highly effective over land, especially in dense and small spaces.
Flexrotor is already proving its worth. Once it goes into full-scale production during the first quarter of next year, its real value will be realized.