Our UAV's / RPA's tend to be light weight construction, often EPO foam. As resilient as this is, landing on quarry floors and thistle paddocks do take their toll. With the Australian dollar so low two things (many others) are happening.
On the positive side our investment in each UAV is depreciating slower and in some cases appreciating. We bought an eBee 12 months ago for $35,000, to buy one now it is $42,000!
On the downside however the bits n bobs such as battery and camera covers, belly skids and wings have all gone up in price. Take the eBee battery & camera hatch covers for instance, some months ago these were $150 each to replace! a tiny block of foam!
The belly skid is where the full brunt of landing is felt and fortunately the new model eBee's come with a skid plate. This however quickly becomes dinged, picked and folded. All reducing airflow and efficiency in the air. We have identified the OEM skid doesn't go far enough so we have developed one that slips over the nose and all the way to the business end. Furthermore it molds into those camera and opticflow ports where sand likes to catch. The molds are ready and just waiting on plastic supplies. We have belly skids for the eBee, Skywalker 1900 and the Skywalker x-8.
Now I know many cringe at seeing $40k hit the deck and therefore try catching it head-on. We too practiced this but noticed we were simply shifting the wear and tear. Catching with both hands on the leading edges transfers/compresses the rear spar in and loosens the front edge. Each wing spar has a small magnet that must contact inside the fuselage. If it doesn't a warning message "Wing not detected" occurs (takeoff disallowed). We have developed a small, portable and effective catch net.
We will post a free quick instruction and photo list of how to make one of these in coming days. It works great and most of all it is so gentle on the aircraft. Anyone that has done the hand catching knows it can be hit and miss whether the UAV will drop short, glide over just out of reach or be so offtrack that you sprint to it all the while shedding role equipment along the way, jumping logs and tall buildings only to miss the catch by inches. With the catch net it is like having a base ballers mit. So much extra reach!
Next week we will begin making plastic vacuum formed covers. If you are interested in these let us know.