Early on in the year (2016), VTOL Technologies, Beagle Technology and Freeform Technology collaborated to manufacture the ‘VTOL Flying Wing’ drone. Today, customers either use manned helicopters or foot based personnel for many asset and infrastructure inspection tasks. The challenge is being able to repeat the inspection process safely, accurately, time after time and establish trend data delivering higher quality inspection information, whilst reducing the overall inspection task budget. We were given the task to manufacture a low weight, high strength drone, giving high endurance and precision flight ability.
VTOL Technologies and Beagle Technology worked together to design the drone, working to overcome the list of current issues specified for the current method of infrastructure inspection – reducing the costs and increasing the repeatability, safety and accuracy. Once the designs were completed and tested, the tooling manufacture of the drone began. Due to the need of high strength and low weight to increase the flight time of the drone, carbon fibre was the chosen material for manufacture. Freeform Technology was chosen for tooling manufacture due to their attention to detail, response time and reliability of high quality pattern manufacture, supplying on time delivery and fully inspected tooling to the tight tolerances required for this drone. The tooling was machined using 5 axis CNC routers, hand finished, inspected and then sealed for the composite part manufacture to begin at Beagle Technology. Beagle Technology worked alongside Freeform Technology to create the tooling for their component production, knowing quality and precision were key to achieving the best possible efficiency for the flight and mobility of the drone. Once the components were manufactured at Beagle Technology, the assembly of the drone began. The structure of the drone was put together in-house at Beagle Technology, while the internal electronics and camera were fitted at VTOL Technologies, giving the drone its ‘eye in the sky’ for the desired high quality inspection. The drone is fitted with an advanced aerofoil which is able to provide high lift at low speeds, whilst providing low drag at high speed. Coupled with this are four ducted-fan rotors that are able to rotate as pairs. Each ducted-fan pair is able to rotate through 110 degrees from the horizontal through to the vertical.
Finally, the drone was complete and ready for its first flight, which was a complete success, covering all the issues faced, providing the pilot the high mobility, increased visualisation and speed to achieve the infrastructure inspection tasks, while reducing the man power for on-foot inspections, and decreasing costs for helicopter inspections.
If you would like to learn more about how Freeform Technology can help with tooling manufacture, please get in touch with our team today: https://freeformtechnology.co.uk/contact/