JUL 2018


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JULY 2018 40 CompositesWorld FEATURE / Composite UAVs Take Flight The new IGNIS remotely controlled pyrotechnic system, designed by Drone Amplified (Lincoln, NE, US) specifically for transport on UAVs for the purpose of prescribed-fire manage- ment on public and private lands, was recognized on the US Department of Interior's 2017 list of top made-in-America innovations. Launched last year, the patent-pending technology carries aloft a payload of ping pong ball-sized chemical spheres, which, upon command via radio from the ground, are injected with glycol, starting a chemical reaction that, after the spheres are released to the ground at the desired location, burst into flame to target an intentional fire start. When used for back-fire ignition to halt an out-of-control wildfire, the system minimizes the need to put human fire fighters in hazardous situations. James Higgins, Drone Ampli- fied's lead engineer and one of the founders of the company, says the IGNIS payload package can be provided already loaded on a UAV or can be integrated onto the UAV of the customer's choosing. That package includes parts made from CNC-milled carbon fiber composite plate, 3D-printed components and milled aluminum parts. Higgins reports selling one of the first IGNIS drone systems to commercial UAV service provider 3FB Aerworx Pty. Ltd. (Ringwood, VIC, Australia), and also recently recorded a sale to the US Department of Interior. He says the company is in the process of securing new contracts with state and commercial agencies, with product deliveries expected this summer. Drones: Fire-management technology delivery Drones — new players in industry Drones are having an impact in the industrial realm, going aerially where it is more difficult and expensive for workers and conventional machinery, including robots, to go. One application with a potentially huge future is safety inspection of aging wind blades. UAVs equipped with cameras for military surveil- lance were one of the earliest uses of the technology. Today, drones fitted with special cameras, and operated autonomously by extremely sophisticated software, can inspect a giant wind turbine's rotor blades in as little as 15 minutes, (inspection by a human can take an entire day), and forward visual evidence of damage to a Web portal for onscreen viewing by inspectors in more comfortable surroundings. CW covered this growing drone-based business phenomenon in its May issue (see Learn More). A group of researchers at the University of Stuttgart's (Stuttgart, Germany) Institute for Building Structures and Structural Design and Institute for Computational Design have demonstrated a novel and clever method of using drones in combination with industrial robots to fabricate a long-span composite structure via a fiber-winding process. Collaborative winding, as it is called, entails the use of two stationary industrial robots and a custom-built, lightweight drone or UAV "go-between" to fabricate long-span structures in the interstitial space between the robots (Fig. 3, p. 38). In simple terms, the fabrica- tion layout establishes a favorable division of labor which capitalizes on the strengths of both machines — the robots are used to precisely place the resin-impregnated roving on the winding frame, while the drone shuttles the fiber from the spools to each of the robotic arms, thereby circumventing the limitation imposed on part size by the robot end- effector's reach envelope. Until now, the primary alternative to fabri- cating large parts exceeding the reach of the robot was to build the part by modularization, a process that is less than ideal, especially if the fabricated structure is load-bearing. e project was the work of eight researchers at the University and is summarized in the paper "Multi-Machine Fabrication," published in the November 2017 edition of Acadia, a journal of interior architecture and spatial design. e workcell comprised two, 6-axis KUKA (Augsburg, Germany) KR 210 R3100 Ultra robots, equipped with steel extensions, a hydraulic gripper to grasp the winding effector from the UAV, and an infrared camera used to synchronize the robot's locations with the UAV. A custom tension mechanism, based on tension devices used in extru- sion and rolling applications, provides control over fiber tension as it is passed from the fiber source to the UAV or robot. James Solly, one of the project researchers, says the final design of the custom-built drone was derived from four earlier prototypes, in a design process that enabled the team to optimize the drone's weight and stabilize its flight behavior. Parts for the drone body were machined from standard carbon plate, while the craft's arms were fabricated from 20-mm carbon tubing. Other, smaller pieces, such as connectors and spacers, were 3D printed from polylactic acid (PLA). Drone dimensions are approximately 92 by 92 by 31 cm and the vehicle can carry a payload of about 2 kg. To wind a single anchor point, the robot arm travels around the winding frame with the impregnated fiber elevated above the laminate. Upon reaching the anchor point, the robot winds the fiber around it, then returns the winding effector to the landing platform where the UAV Airborne risk- reduction Drone Amplified's (Lincoln, NE, US) IGNIS/ drone payload package is used for prescribed fire management of public and private lands. Retrofitted on a drone, the system can be used to remotely start back fires during out-of-control wildfires, avoiding risk to human firefighters. Source | Drone Amplified

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