The SkyHopper UAV is new civilian drone, which uses an all electrical system to power three fan rotors and which will be capable of carrying payloads of up to 100Kg.
The drone is being designed with a variety of purposes in mind, from supporting remote communities, to ecological surveys, humanitarian aid and monitoring programmes. The creators are even suggesting local communities could create franchised, locally-owned ‘air parks’ to enable multiple Sky Hopper missions, generating revenue for the community.
The group behind the project consists of aeronautical engineers, certification and design specialists, electric machine designers, and advanced battery developers.
Project leader, Eben Wilson, said: “Civil UAV development is still in early days. We want to engineer a pathway to a commercial future; and we have the strong team to work through the certification requirements alongside the technical issues. It’s a challenge, but it really is time we did this.”
“Taking a step upwards to an industrial vehicle demands that we innovate across all our disciplines,” says Dr Richard Brown, the project’s aerodynamicist. “We plan to build a series of demonstrators, resolving structural, power and flight control needs. We have some of the best skills available, and we are a small agile team.”
The group plans to build three demonstrator cargo drones at Prestwick in the West of Scotland, with electronics and avionics development taking place in Hampshire.
The three demonstrators will each be focused on completing a phase of the drone’s lifecycle:
- An engineering structures vehicle – partial-build, non-operational
- An avionics and electronics vehicle – partial-build, test structure
- A first flight vehicle, fully certified and enabling regulated initial missions.
While the group has raised initial seed funding through bootstrapping and sponsors, it is now looking for £500,000 to complete the demonstrator and has launched a crowd-funding campaign to enable early backers to help bring the Sky Hopper UAV to life.
“We may sound like evangelists, saying that we want the funding to be based on a shared interest in inspired innovation, but we really mean it,” says Wilson. “In today’s global markets we can stand on the side lines and wait for the big corporates to come along and feed us with their trinkets; allowing us only to become their shopkeepers. But that’s not what we British have been in the past, and certainly in the West of Scotland we feel firmly entrenched in our historic industrial traditions. We like building stuff, and Sky Hopper contains the stuff of the future.”
The global commercial UAV market is currently worth around $2 billion. However, according to recent research by PwC, it is projected to be worth as much as $127 billion by 2020.