As Menick points out, SwissDrones’ flagship flying machine has gained some pretty prominent users, if not out-and-out fans, including two departments of the German Aerospace Center (DLR) that are now using the Dragon 50V2 for research.
One of those departments is the DLR Institute of Robotics and Mechatronics in Oberpfaffenhofen, where researchers have been looking for new ways to service and maintain mobile inspection robots that crawl over pipelines on magnetic wheels. As part of the European Union “Aerial Robotics Cooperative Assembly System” (ARCAS) project, DLR researchers have equipped two Dragon 50V2s with an industrial robotic gripper arm with seven degrees of freedom.
To reach pipeline robots, which often work in remote and isolated areas, the Dragon 50V2 navigates autonomously, using its onboard autopilot with NovAtel GNSS, then switches to a precision image-processing system using onboard cameras. The hovering Dragon 50V2 places its gripper arm on the target with centimetre precision, and once it has the robot in its grasp, it can autonomously transport it to a specified location for repairs or maintenance.
Researchers say that the Dragon 50V2 could eventually be programmed to carry out robot maintenance on-site while hovering in the air.
In another EU-funded project called ARTIS (Autonomous Rotorcraft Testbed for Intelligent Systems), scientists at the DLR Research Center in Braunschweig are using the Dragon 50V2 as a platform for the development and testing of a full range of autonomous flight technologies and components. DLR researchers are looking at new control techniques, human-machine interfaces, intelligent behavior capabilities and methods for sensor fusion.
Menick says the question of why DLR selected his company’s system is quite easy to answer: “We have a product that simply works and does the job! The DLR purchased one of our drones, and then they came back for more, because they realized the Dragon 50V2 is a very stable and reliable vehicle to use in their research projects.”
SwissDrones Operating AG states, we have been delighted to provide Dragons to a high-powered end user like DLR. “The great cooperation and feedback we have been getting from them over the past years, based on their testing and projects, has really been a great help to us,” Menick says, “allowing us to fine-tune and make final adjustments and improvements in our drones, especially the Dragon 50V2, and this goes for our other end-users too.”
The Dragon 50V2, currently, it would seem, has no match, in no small part thanks to strong partnerships and excellence in sensors—including NovAtel’s OEM615—design, and integration.