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In the Focus

Independently Developed UAV Project Makes Important Progress

Oct 29, 2018 Latest News

Professor Xiao Xiaowen, Head of Department of Mechanics and Aerospace Engineering at Southern University of Science and Technology (SUSTech), has led a drone research team to develop drones for fully autonomous fixed-wing vertical take-off and landing flights.

The drones will be able to be used for logistics and transportation. The research team has recently completed flight and performance calibration tests of the 30% scaled-down prototype. The 1:1 prototype had its maiden flights on September 8 with an intensive series of test flights.

30% scaled down prototype test flight test data

Full 3D printing

Assembling drone

Flight Test and Data Collection (caption)

Named "Heron," the drone project aims to increase the lifespan and range of the drone by a magnitude of 5 to 10 through an advanced layout and aerodynamic optimization. The Heron UAV has two authorized core patents. One is a propeller-mounted vertical take-off and landing fixed-wing aircraft, and the other is a pneumatic vertical take-off and landing aircraft. The other three are in progress.

Vertical take-off and landing

First flight perspective

High-speed flight

The two authorized core patents ensure the superior performance of “Heron” with both vertical take-off and landing, large load and long range in terms of overall layout and flight control logic. The key characteristics include backward installed propellers, control surfaces behind the propellers, and electric motor driven pushed propellers. This design allows the UAV to take off and land vertically. Meanwhile, the UAV can achieve various flight states, including hovering and cruising, through adjusting the different flight surfaces.

Flight path and live data

Authorized Patents

In recent years, with the rapid development of the logistics industry and e-commerce platform, the application of drones in the logistics industry has received extensive attention, and the market is huge in the future.

Domestic express delivery has grown at a rate of more than 50% over the past five years. The current rate of growth indicates that more than 40 billion packages were delivered by express delivery firms in 2017, and the smart logistics industry is worth more than 200 billion yuan. The industry is expected to surpass one trillion yuan by 2025. The "Heron" drone project, based on the country's development needs, will provide strong support for building a technologically strong country and a smart society.

All along, the SUSTech Department of Mechanics and Aerospace Engineering has continuously innovated and strengthened independent research and development. It has tackled core technologies and advanced at the international level.

Furthermore, the Joint SUSTech-NUS UAV Laboratory of the National University of Singapore (NUS) and SUSTech saw an agreement signed at NUS on March 23, 2018, to help the internationalization of the project.

Text: Ren Yi

Translated and Adapted: Chris Edwards

Proofread: Xia Yingying

Video: Zheng Yijun

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