A Revolutionary Solar-Charged Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Project Kicks Off
France/Bulgaria, 23.02.2022 – Earlier this year, a French-Bulgarian consortium kicked off an advanced project to develop an ingenious solar-charged long-endurance unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV).
The Long Endurance solar UAV (LESU) project is led by the French SYLPHAERO, known for creating innovative electric engines for aviation. The other consortium members are the Bulgarian Sequoia Innovations, developing imaging and multi-sensor payload solutions for UAVs, drones, and satellites, and Sofia-based custom software developer and data streaming solutions expert Bianor Services.
LESU is among the 12 winners out of 45 applicants receiving financing from the UFO Project. The project supports European SMEs in developing innovative products and services by integrating new technological solutions and know-how provided by the combination of innovative Small Flying Objects. UFO is funded by Horizon 2020: EU Programme for Research and Innovation.
LESU aims to develop a long-endurance UAV that gets charged via solar panels. Once in the air, the objective is for the UAV to stay there for long periods. It could fly over certain zones or cover larger perimeters being able to stay above or below the clouds. The ultimate goal of LESU is to perform civil surveillance of extensive distant and inaccessible territories. Governmental authorities and private companies can utilize LESU’s performance in wood fire prevention, dam water level control, farming, and scientific research. In addition, the UAV will be able to carry and drop small packages.
SYLPHAERO is the company that develops the aircraft. According to the French developers, LESU has some significant advantages compared to similar UAVs. The drone has a small wingspan of only seven meters, while other models range from 22 to 35 meters. The small wingspan eases considerably on-the-ground logistics and facility requirements. In addition, the more robust airframe and lower production costs make this UAV a powerful contender. But what makes it stand out is its long-flight endurance capability. According to the developers, LESU can fly for months without landing if the weather allows it.
LESU will carry an electro-optical payload including thermal and multi-spectral cameras for high-altitude data capture. Sequoia Innovations is the consortium member responsible for developing the optical payloads and onboard computer (OBC) for image processing, visual-based autonomous navigation, and edgeAI applications. The video sensors collaborate with two other onboard modules – Board Metadata Controller (GPS, Gyro, and additional possible metadata) and Board Communication Controller, which establishes the link to the ground.
Bianor is responsible for establishing the communication flow between the aircraft’s onboard computer (OBC) and the ground station. The company will develop the communication software for OBC and the ground control station. Future integration with satellite communications is in the pipeline as well. The communications are split into two separate streams.
The first one is a two-way stream related to the control of the optical sensors. The commands are received from the UAV onboard communication interface and passed to the control channel software module. They are decoded and delivered to the appropriate sensor control module for further format conversion and delivery to the sensor.
The second stream refers to the video data transfer from the optical equipment to the ground station. The video payload is passed to the selected encoder and, after the processing, is delivered to the Downstream payload composer. The composer (or stream builder) is packaging streams, and the appropriate real-time received metadata and formatted through the Metadata interface.
Bianor is also responsible for developing LESU specific software for the ground station. During this very first stage of the project, the company will create a prototype proof of concept level to give the ability to perform functional tests.
LESU project started in the first days of 2022 and is planned to last for 11 months. At the end of the period, the consortium will present a fully functional Long Endurance solar UAV able to perform the above-described activities.
About UFO www.ufoproject.eu
UFO (Emerging indUstries new value chains boosted by small flying objects) aims to support European SMEs in the development of innovative products and services integrating new Embedded Key Enabling Technology Solutions (digital technologies, microelectronics, nanotechnologies, sensors, and Exploitation solutions) in the Small Flying Objects: Drones, High Attitude Platform Systems and Small Satellites answering the challenges of 6 Emerging Industries: Blue Growth, Digital Creative & Gaming, Mobility Technologies, Climate, Environment, Finance & Insurance.
The European project UFO had received €4.3 million from the Horizon 2020 programme of the European Commission, of which €3.6 million is dedicated to the support of SMEs through direct financial support and services provided by UFO partners. Present in 5 different countries (Bulgaria, France, Greece, Romania, and United Kingdom) UFO aims to finance more than 75 SMEs providing innovative solutions on the targeted emerging industries.
About SYLPHAERO www.sylphaero.com
SYLPHAERO is a French start-up based in Mérignac (France), working mainly in the aerospace industry. The company works on two ambitious projects: 100% electric jet engines and long endurance solar UAVs; and also offers engineering services in aerospace, industrial engineering, and numerical simulations.
SYLPHAERO has significant expertise in aerospace (UAVs development, aerodynamics, propulsion), industrial engineering (manufacturing process, lean manufacturing, six sigma, and factory optimization), plasma physics (cold and thermal plasmas), and numerical simulations (CFD, electromagnetics, FEA).
About Sequoia Innovations sequoia-innovations.space
Sequoia Innovations is a vision systems and motion control solutions developer from Bulgaria. The company has been building innovative products with Defense and Civil applications for more than 15 years. SI has a broad portfolio in Motion Control, Servo motors and actuators, CANopen communications, VIS+NIR and LWIR Thermal imaging, Sensors Fusion.
The company develops new products with a focus on small-scale serial production. As a result, its clients can enjoy optimized performance and cost, high reliability, and swift time to market.
About Bianor www.bianor.com
Bianor is one of Bulgaria’s oldest software development companies, established in 1998. The company has evolved an in-depth specialization in developing custom software solutions in the fields of video and image processing, video streaming, real-time broadcasting, encryption/decryption of video signal, analyses, recommendations, and data transfer.
Bianor is among the very few companies in Bulgaria developing specialized reconnaissance software solutions for the Defense Industry. It has been implementing comprehensive projects for NATO and EU Defense forces in collaboration with the leading Defense Industry contractors.
Besides, Bianor has considerable expertise in Testing and Quality Assurance on multiple projects for testing high-tech software and hardware solutions. Bianor has provided services to companies of various sizes and industries, building versatile dedicated software development teams.