BlueBird Aero Systems is displaying its latest electrically-powered mini-UAVs, including the sub-kilogram MicroB, the combat proven Skylite mini-UAV and the flying-wing shaped Boomerang small-UAV, which has demonstrated mission endurance of 10 hours, powered by fuel cells, a record unmatched by other small-UAS of its class.
Beside these innovative US systems BlueBird has pioneered a number of UAV related technologies, related to power sources and sensors. In 2008 the company has patented an innovative multi-sensor payload, called Globe-i. A daylight EO payload designed to enable micro-UAVs to cover a large area. Globe-i enables this feature without using moving parts, resulting in lighter, more reliable and affordable payloads.
Common gimbaled cameras are usually stabilized, integrated with expensive electronics and accurate mechanics and thus expensive and impact sensitive due to their high complexity. For micro-mini UAVs, cameras are typically implemented with fix mounts, to accommodate size, weight and power restrictions. The Globe-i concept implements multiple fixed CMOS sensors, each mounted to a different direction. The cameras are fixed-mounted in such a way that each camera overlaps the camera beside it, to enable image continuation. The Window of Interest (WOI) can be moved continuously between the sensors to enable the ‘gimbals’ effect. Only the WOI is transmitted to the ground via the video datalink. An integrated DSP reads the images from the sensors and enables scrolling the window of interest by changing the window size and zoom factor. The system’s processor supports image processing capabilities such as stabilization and tracking. In addition, Globe-i can store real-time video and high resolution images in its internal memory.
Globe-i combines the best of both worlds, the ability to provide continuous video image with controlled line of sight, but without using moving parts (line of sight stabilizing gimbals, zoom motors etc). These capabilities enable users of Micro-UAVs to gain operational capabilities similar to larger UAVs, with better operational reliability and significantly lower cost. Potential applications for Globe-i are endless, as the payload is positioned as simple and affordable to military, law enforcement, emergency and commercial applications, from remote monitoring of meters, electrical power line surveillance, and landscape monitoring to traffic management and reporting, border security or even wide area ISTAR missions employing micro-UAV swarms.