Skydweller’s aircraft in its test this weekend, setting a preliminary world record for the highest altitude flight for a US pilot in a solar powered aircraft / Skydweller
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This Spanish-American start-up, which will have facilities in Valdepeñas, highlights that this world record has been possible thanks to the successful test of its initial autonomous systems technology, which took place this weekend
The Hispanic-American Company Skydweller Aero Inc., that will have facilities in the Manuel Sánchez airfield, from Valdepeñas, has achieved this weekend a preliminary world record by getting the higher altitude flight for a US pilot in a solar powered aircraft.
This aerospace start-up, which develops solar-powered unmanned aircraft solutions to achieve perpetual flight, highlights that this world record achieved in the Albacete airport, where it is provisionally installed until the Valdepeñas facilities are enabled, has been possible thanks to the successful test of its initial autonomous systems technology.
The test took place this Sunday, after the successful launch of the Skydweller Aero flight test program at the end of 2020. During this time, the company has been preparing for the development of a fully autonomous aircraft, which will work with a system of state-of-the-art autopilot, with internally designed hardware to increase efficiency, integration and connectivity. Skydweller engineers have successfully prepared the aircraft for testing and evaluation of autopilot functionalities, including open and closed loop inputs to collect critical data, promoting autonomous software development.
Through the collection of real-world data, Skydweller will be able to create mathematical models capable of sending simulated data inputs to improve the software under multiple conditions, accelerating the company’s plans towards the fully autonomous flight. This requires testing of the autopilot at various altitudes, allowing preliminary proclamation of world record.
Skydweler’s Chief Operating Officer, Sebastien renouard has explained to Digital launch how these test flights have been through an interview.
Question. Do you have more data from the flight tests that were carried out in 2020 and what have these new tests consisted of?
Answer. The first flight in 2020 and this second in 2021 have been preliminary flights. They have enabled our pilot to become certified on the aircraft and have given our engineers a better understanding of the aircraft hardware, its original autopilot functionality, and sensor technology. These flights have provided us with the critical data we needed to run our internal software and hardware development.
Q. What is this fully autonomous aircraft? What characteristics does it have?
R. This stage of the flight test campaign consists of many consecutive flights, as we continue to install and implement new software capabilities, and as we collect critical onboard data to refine our mathematical models. The presence of a pilot, at this stage, gives us the flexibility, within the regulatory framework, to continuously increase / improve the capacity of the aircraft rapidly. We have made the pilot monitor an increasingly capable system that will eventually be able to execute a flight, from takeoff to landing, without any action from the pilot. At this point, we will remove the cabin and take our first fully autonomous flight.
These tests have been carried out at the Albacete airport and we will continue like this until the hangar and flight test facilities in Valdepeñas are completed.
Q. What is the next step after testing? When is the aircraft expected to be marketed?
R. The next steps after these tests, which begin with an autonomous takeoff and landing, will be the removal of the cockpit and our transition to our fully autonomous flight test campaign. We are truly focused on improving the technological capabilities of this aircraft, while ensuring the highest safety standards. We are a fast-growing company and see commercialization as a short-term goal, but we keep our eyes on the goal of testing our technology safely first.
Q. Could you give information about the pilot?
R. Our experimental test pilot Miguel Inturmendi is a Spanish-American pilot with more than 10,000 flight hours in more than 170 air vehicles. He has worked on numerous projects, including SolarStos, Airbus (Perlan II), Boeing’s Aurora Flight Sciences (Odysseus), Honda Jet and Saab 340 MBSAR. He is an expert and recognized pilot, as he is the youngest winner of the Living Legends of Aviation.
As a Hispanic-American company committed to innovation and excellence, we are happy to have a like-minded pilot as part of our team.
Q. What does this initiative mean for the company and for aviation?
R. This initiative marks an important milestone in the company, in which we began to test our design and implementation of software and hardware. Our team has been dedicated to learning this aircraft from the inside out, and now, based on more than a year and a half of study, we have begun the major improvements and vital tests necessary to transition this aircraft to a non-airborne vehicle. manned (UAV).
As for what this initiative means for aviation, it means that the aviation industry is one step closer to a commercially viable platform for commercial telecommunications, emergency services, and defense intelligence. This has been a long-standing dream, one that many companies pursue. Our platform has more flight hours and more payload capacity than any other on the market. Simply put, this game is changing.
Q. How is the installation of the company in Valdepeñas going? How many people will work at the facility? Will they maintain other offices in other parts of Spain once installed in Valdepeñas?
R. Due to COVID-19, the installation of our hangar and facilities in Valdepeñas has been delayed. However, we have hired 20 employees who will transition to Valdepeñas full time. All of our technical and flight test team will work from Valdepeñas, while we maintain an important group of engineers in our offices in Alcobendas, Madrid.
Q. The Government of Castilla-La Mancha has declared the Skydweller project for the construction of the solar drone factory in Valdepeñas a priority. How does this decision affect you? How could delivery times be reduced?
R. It is a great honor to be considered a priority project by the Government of Castilla-La Mancha. This allows an easier and more agile process, accelerating our construction project in Valdepeñas and various procedures in the region. At this stage, we cannot say exactly how this influences our construction schedule, but there is no denying that this is a great achievement that will accelerate progress. This is another great example of our fantastic partnership between government and industry.