As Poslovni Dnevnik/Lucija Spiljak writes, eight students from the Faculty of Electrical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering and Naval Architecture in Split (FESB) who make up the Split startup Alpha Sagittarius, have designed and created the VECTOR V-3M unmanned system under the Aero-Navis Systems brand, part of which is an unmanned aerial vehicle of modular design and intended for dual use, ie for civil and military purposes.
“One socially useful purpose for drones is search and rescue, the control of land and maritime traffic, fire control, and the delivery of emergency medical supplies such as vaccines to remote locations. The drone is commercially used in the industry for the supervision and inspection of buildings, mines, power plants, gas pipelines, transmission lines, various gas emissions, etc. These are all activities in which unmanned systems are already used,” explained CEO and Chief Engineer, Djani Vrsalovic.
The system also includes communication equipment, control equipment, mission management equipment, transport and service equipment and a launcher. Their drone can fly for three hours in a row, while with the multirotor configuration, it is able to fly for 30-40 minutes, and its range is defined by its own communication systems.
HD images are transmitted up to 50 kilometres, and the control and telemetry lasts for approximately 100 kilometres. The Split startup Alpha Sagittarius’ drone is autonomous in performing various tasks, meaning it can be programmed to perform some tasks entirely independently.
“Our unmanned aerial vehicle is in the shape of flying wings, but there’s the possibility of mounting modules with rotors on the wings, which turn it into a VTOL drone (an aircraft that can take off and land vertically).
We’re planning a third version where the wings can be replaced with two multirotor modules on each side, each with four rotors. As such, the drone would become a classic multirotor. It’s also possible to change the load, depending on the type of mission that needs to be performed. This gives a modular construction of the system that then provides great flexibility in use.
For example, let’s say one journey requires a lot of hovering, vertical flights at short range for the purpose of the detailed survey of buildings or bridges, while the next day, there may be a need to record or take something to let’s say… Vis, using fixed wings that provide a long range but need a landing surface and takeoff. VTOL would then be in the middle in terms of its characteristics. The system is available on the market with the drone in the basic version with a fixed wing. We’re now nearing the end of the development of the VTOL version, the multirotor is conceptually complex, but it’s what naturally follows in terms of finalisation. We also worked a lot on the communication systems and the control systems. We’ve never done a formal presentation to the market and a launch, but we’ve started to offer it to potential buyers,” explained Vrsalovic.
The Split startup Alpha Sagittarius procures materials and equipment from all over the world, and they have experienced disruptions in the supply and production chains on their own proverbial skin, meaning some components are harder to come by. The technology is entirely theirs – they designed, manufactured, tested and fly it themselves. In addition to their drone, they also worked on the communication themselves, as well as the control station and much more.
Complex regulations remain dominant
According to Vrsalovic, the Croatian regulations on unmanned aerial vehicles are complex, as they are across the territory of the European Union. The rules, added Djani, are constantly changing because the market is also changing, technology is advancing rapidly and legislators need to keep up with it all, which means constant dynamics and alterations when it comes to drone regulations.
“There aren’t many drone producers here in Croatia, so the agencies don’t have a clear path when it comes to what, when, how and why. It’s somewhat clear for drone users, but it’s a little harder for manufacturers. Certification is a special challenge for BVLOS operations, which means operations out of sight when the pilot doesn’t see the aircraft, but is operating it only remotely, and at long distances,” he explained.
Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, interest in such systems has grown globally, we have witnessed the crash of an unmanned aircraft in the centre of Zagreb, and Vrsalovic says that they have already had several inquiries about the Split startup Alpha Sagittarius’ unmanned system outside of the borders of the Republic of Croatia.
“It’s difficult to reach state services, agencies and ministries here on our market. There’s a lot of hesitation when it comes to accessing some advanced technologies and startup companies are struggling to get to the necessary government services. During the Homeland War, Croatia was one of the pioneers in the use of unmanned systems, but we forgot this technology as time passed and we didn’t use our acquired knowledge. Now we’ve started from the very beginning in some areas,” stated the director of the Split startup Alpha Sagittarius.
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