UAVOS Inc. and Stratodynamics Aviation Inc. this week announced that their pioneering flight of the HiDRON stratospheric glider successfully reached an altitude of 30km (98,450 ft. or 18.6 mi.), breaking their previous 25km (15.5 mi.) record. The flight tested the unmanned aerial vehicle and its onboard sensors, which could be used to detect pollution and signs of climate change.
UAVOS has offices in the Hong Kong; Mountain View, Calif.; Guadalajara, Spain; and Steinhausen, Switzerland. The company has recently raised a round of financing from a group of private investors to advance its research and development efforts, reduce the go-to-market time for new systems, and focus on promotion and commercialization.
Large customers in different segments work directly with UAVOS. Its unmanned technologies include the High Altitude Pseudo-Satellite (HAPS) ApusDuo, a multi-platform autopilot solution for converting manned vehicles of all types into unmanned vehicles, and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) aimed to counteract systems of electronic warfare.
Stratodynamics provides high-altitude earth observation platforms and services. Platforms are unmanned stratospheric gliders to carry in-situ measurement instruments. The Kenilworth, Ontario-based company’s services include instrument integration, campaign coordination, and data collection and assessment.
Collaborating for HiDRON tests
This international collaboration was the culmination of seven months of planning between Stratodynamics, the SAS, and UAVOS. The Slovakian team was searching for a cost-effective method to allow the AMON (airglow monitoring) detector to have a clear view of the zenith and the nadir while unencumbered by a weather balloon.
The night flight was the first of two commissioned to test a new AMON detector from the Slovak Academy of Sciences (SAS) Institute of Experimental Physics.
In addition, Stratodynamics and UAVOS used the flight to test aspects of the HiDRON design, including stratospheric flight dynamics, data links, and the UAVOS Autopilot. The drone’s programmable flight path back provided researchers an unobstructed view upward from the stratosphere and returned the valuable instrument to the launch location.
“HiDRON is a real solution to advancing the important research around climate change and other atmospheric chemistry problems,” said Aliaksey Stratilatau, UAVOS board member and CEO. “HiDRON provides solutions to tough problems that affect all of humankind, which is why it is such a capable and necessary platform for researchers.”
All went according to the plan, as the UAVOS ground crew lifted HiDRON by a balloon to the 30km target altitude and released it in -60° C (-76° F) stratospheric winds. Despite the harsh environment, the HiDRON performed well. It transmitted data to the ground station in real time during a four-hour controlled descent.
“We are extremely pleased with the performance and outcome of this recent 30 km milestone,” said Gary Pundsack, CEO of Stratodynamics. “Our unique method of collecting high-quality large datasets from hard-to-reach locations offers clients new, cost-effective access to stratospheric altitudes.”
A second AMON Airglow flight is tentatively scheduled for the end of the month from the Canadian Space Agency’s STRATOS Balloon Launch facility in Timmins, Ontario. This time, the glider will be released from the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) scientific gondola at an altitude of 35km (21.7 mi.), a new milestone for the HiDRON.
This campaign represents the first attempt in North America to release a stratospheric glider from a scientific gondola. The data collected during Timmins flight in 2019 will be used for comparison with the results from Extreme Universe Science Observation (EUSO) Balloon mission that operated in the same region in 2014.
The AMON is planned to be an ancillary instrument for EUSO-SPB2 mission that will fly on a long-duration NASA balloon in 2022.
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