Transpower UAV Demonstration

Schiebel Technical Director explains features of the Camcopter
The Schiebel Technical Director explains features
of the Camcopter
Photo: ASMS Ltd.
ASMS attended Transpower's demonstration of the Schiebel Camcopter at Drury Substation on Thursday 19 September 2013. Standing approximately 3.5 feet tall, the Camcopter has an Empty Weight of approximately 110kg, and a Maximum Take-Off Weight of 200kg.1 It has a rotary engine that can be fuelled by 95 Octane, 98 Octane, Avgas, or Diesel. Capable of operating in most weather conditions, the Camcopter can withstand a downpour of up to 50mm per hour.

The unit being demonstrated had been fitted with the FLIR Systems Corona 350 Airborne Sensor package, specifically designed for power line inspections.

FLIR Corona 350 Airborne Sensor
FLIR Corona 350 Airborne Sensor
Photo: ASMS Ltd.
The Corona 350 is a four axis gyro-stabilized gimbal containing four different cameras including an ultraviolet camera for corona detection, a thermal imaging camera for detecting hot-spots in power lines, a visual light camera and a digital frame camera. [The Corona 350 overlays] its ultraviolet and color TV video data to create a combined image that allows operators to detect and identify coronal discharges – areas of ionized air – that are known to damage power line insulators and other electrical components.2

Successful integration of the two systems had only been publicised by Schiebel a week earlier.2

The video clip below shows the unit taking off and the imagery available to the operators from the Corona 350:

Source: "Transpower's spy in the sky", NZ Herald, 19 September 2013

CAA had authorised beyond line-of-sight operations within an area of restricted airspace, subject to on-the-ground observers maintaining visual contact at all times. CAA's view is that visual contact, whether by the pilot or by observers in radio contact with the pilot, will remain essential until sense-and-avoid technology can be reliably implemented.

One option for integrating UAVs into the national airspace system is to have a restricted areas that can be activated when a UAV is to fly in that area. However, a further interesting aspect of the demonstration was the General Aviation (GA) sector's demonstration of their inability to comply with airspace restrictions. By 10:30am on Thursday morning, 8 aircraft had violated the restricted area. Transpower and CAA had ensured that the restricted area was well publicised and NOTAMed, with all local aero clubs and flying school advised. Not only would a network of restricted areas be cumbersome to implement and acivate, but they will also be ignored by at least part of the GA sector. The implication is that 'see-and-avoid' (in visual contact) and 'sense-and-avoid' (beyond line-of-sight) will be the necessary conditions for UAV integration.

[1] Technical specifications for the Camcopter are summarised on the Schiebel Camcopter S-100 page on Wikipedia.
[2] Schiebel Integrates Camcopter with FLIR Systems Corona 350 Sensor, 11 September 2013