2010 was another successful year for A J S Support Limited. Throughout the year we have continued to build on our previous years success, delivering on large Business and Equipment Support Services contracts. We have also begun to recover from our initial slow progress with the planned Survey Support Service.
Business and Equipment Support – In 2010 we were delighted to have the opportunity to support MoD and Industry support teams involved in managing key Defence capabilities. This last year we have delivered Business Management Support to the industry contingent of the Apache UK Team and Equipment Management Support to the MoD contingent of the Chinook Team.
New Support Service – In March the company decided to take its lessons learnt from the previous years Survey Support service development using a Microdrones MD4-200, and continue this work, with a larger more robust and traditional rotary winged sUAS solution from Carvec systems. On paper this appears to match our requirements better.
In Jan 2010 we saw the CAA bring in the rules to control the operation of sUAS for ‘Aerial Work’. We successfully received the CAA permission to operate the new Carvec system, after successful development and submission of our sUAS safe operating procedures based on the CAA guidelines.
The new air vehicle has integrated stabilisation and control systems which include stabilisation of the payload survey sensor mount. This sUAS can be operated in a number of system operating modes which must be fully understood and experienced by all potential pilots. We embarked on a planned period of pilot training to ensure its safe effective operation. Included in this training is basic remote controlled helicopter control skills.
Training started with professional instruction from two commercial training providers and much appreciated support from a Carvec approved System Training provider. We have purchased a simulator system and a 600 sized training radio controlled helicopter system, to enable us to cost effectively build on the foundation instruction. Our Pilot now has 80 hours simulator, 35 hours Carvec and RC Helicopter flying hours. This on top of the 16 hours microdrone flight time brings our pilot experience up to over 50 hours.
In 2011 our aim is to continue to build on our recent Business and Equipment Support Service successes and to prioritise our limited resource in an effort to achieve a limited launch of our new Survey Support Service in April 2011. This will achieve our planned 3 support service portfolio by the end of 2011.
We wish all our customers and suppliers a successful and prosperous 2011 and look forward to having the opportunity to work with you this year.
In March this year we reassessed our approach and the support equipment for our potential Remote Survey Support Service (R3S). The result was a change from a microdrones quad rotor system, to a more conventional rotary winged system based on a radio controlled airframe with an integrated auto stabilisation and control system (Carvec Kestrel 1000 ES). The reasons for this system change are covered earlier in this blog.
With this markedly different system we needed to take a structured training and experience programme integrated with the service development. In terms of pilot flight training and experience, our target was to undertake initial 5 hours structured instruction from RC Helicopter schools and emergency service experienced instructors. This was to be supplemented by a foundation of 80 hours plus simulator experience.
On the previous microdrone system we had over 16 hours flight operation time. This was useful pilot experience for basic control coordination and operating in the field etc.
Since the initial procurement of the new system we have undertaken 3.5 flight hours basic RC Helicopter instruction from two professional schools. We have had 2 flight hours essential Carvec System training from an experienced instructor for the emergency services. We have also purchased a desktop simulation system and a 600 sized basic RC Helicopter for continuation training and to maintain currency (Align Trex 600 ESP). To date we have clocked over 80 flight hours on the simulator. Very early on in the process we were advised that the best use of the simulator was to carry out all new manoeuvres and operations on the sim until the operator can carry them out naturally, before proceeding with practical training. We took this on board and have added an additional step using the basic training rc helicopter to learn the basic ‘feel’ before we carry out the same operation on the Carvec system.
We feel that although the operator training has been slower, the development has been in a safe and structured manner. This should make it easier to replicate for additional operators if necessary.
As a result we have flown a number of air vehicles and systems. Our Carvec and training systems are both electrically powered with flight durations of between 6 mins for the trainer to 15 mins for the Carvec airvehicle. When we write below that we have flown 50 hours, this equates to a large number of flights.
80 – hours simulator flight hours.
19.1 – basic radio controlled helicopter flight hours including 3.5 hours instruction
16.1 – microdrones system flight hours
16.2 – Carvec flight hours including 2 hours instruction.
We are looking forward to using this experience when the service goes live in April 2011.
The Hawkeye technology that we would usually associate with tennis line judging and other sports, is now being used as part of a helicopter UAV auto landing system. The developers of this system Roke Manor, have picked up an award at The Engineer Technology and Innovation Awards 2010 in the Aerospace category.
The Hawkeye systems was developed in the 1990’s by Roke Manor and works by taking and analysing data from fixed camera positions and extrapolating about movement of the ball in a 3D model environment.
This is now being used in a similar way to automate one of the more difficult phases of operating a helicopter UAV, the landing. More information here.
The British Army’s Hermes 450 (H450) unmanned air vehicles (UAVs) supplied by Thales UK under an Urgent Operational Requirement contract have achieved the outstanding milestone of providing over 30,000 hours of support to UK forces on current operations in Afghanistan.
An achievement that demonstrates that the technology of small and UAS can deliver a reliable capability in adverse conditions.
The full report is on the Defence News website.
Remote Survey Support Service Development Update
Still catching up on blogging our progress – As part of our more advanced service development we have been taking the opportunity to fly on as many sites as possible, with various service scenarios and conditions.
One of the first of these was having the pleasure to fly over a’Beckett’s Vineyard in Wiltshire.
We combined these flights with trials of a Canon 550D for use with stills and video.This visit provided us with an ideal opportunity to gain equipment confidence and pilot experience for operating at up to 300 feet high and at a range of 1000 feet. This was also in the very high winds experienced of over 25 mph when out above the valley.
We learnt that the 550D for video panning is a challenge but the stills produced even under the extreme windy conditions were definitely a step in the right direction.