Event 38 Adds Secure Autopilot to E400 VTOL Drone

Event 38 Unmanned Systems, a leading manufacturer of American-made mapping drones, has combined its new E400 fixed-wing drone platform with Ironclad, a leading high-security flight controller by Asymmetric Technologies, LLC.

The collaboration between Event 38 and Asymmetric began when Rob Hettler, president of Asymmetric, was investigating UAS platform options for showcasing the capabilities of Ironclad. Ironclad is a secure flight controller designed with advanced encryption and security features that meet the rigorous requirements of Department of Defense (DoD) users and other high security missions. Additionally, Ironclad is compatible with PX4 and Ardupilot, the two most popular open-source software programs for flight controllers and autopilots. Because of this, Ironclad users can design specialty features and customize the program to suit their needs.

Asymmetric received funding from the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) elevate Ironclad to a complete solution, so they started looking for a reputable partner with a quality UAS platform. “Ideally, we were looking for something American made from a company that had worked with the Department of Defense (DoD) before,” said Hettler. “But there aren’t many companies making purely American platforms right now.”

Hettler approached Jeff Taylor, president of Event 38 Unmanned Systems, to discuss a possible collaboration. Under Taylor’s leadership, Event 38 has been making fixed-wing drones for mapping and other applications on American soil for ten years. Event 38 drones are designed to meet rigorous expectations for security, accuracy, and functionality. As of 2020, the company has been operating out of Richfield, Ohio.

Hettler and Taylor agreed that the best platform for demoing Ironclad’s capabilities and features was the E400, a fixed-wing drone with vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) capabilities that was released earlier this year.

“We made a custom version of the E400 for the Asymmetric team,” said Taylor. “It has all the premium features of a standard E400, such as the hot-swap payload bay, the range, the VTOL capabilities, and the battery pack. The E400 has its own high-level security features and is compatible with open-source programming, so Asymmetric can integrate their own flight controller on a secure platform.”

“The E400 is a solidly built, really nice platform. It’s the best-looking platform in our lab,” said Hettler. “And we’d much rather work with a company up the road in Ohio than halfway across the country or around the world.”

The E400 is a carbon fiber, fixed-wing VTOL drone with a flight time of ninety minutes and a payload capacity of five pounds. The E400’s origin story can be traced back to 2019, when Event 38 partnered with the Air Force Rapid Sustainment Office (RSO) to explore VTOL functionality for fixed-wing aircraft. Event 38 ran trials with the Air National Guard on a military-grade drone that became commercially available earlier this year as the E400.

“This collaboration between Event 38 and Asymmetric represents the growing number of possibilities for drone technology and the E400,” said Taylor. “We’re combining the security offered by the Ironclad autopilot with the long flight time and other features of the E400 to create an incredibly valuable tool.”

The unmanned aircraft industry is currently seeing renewed interest in cybersecurity features, especially in light of the situation in Ukraine. “Russian and Ukrainian drones are being shot down and taken apart, and the pictures are being posted online,” said Hettler. “It’s like flying a high-end laptop over enemy territory or other places where you don’t want people to have access to things. There’s a real need for the cybersecurity protections we’ve been developing, like Ironclad.”

Ironclad is designed with a range of premium encryption features, including initial user authentication, secure connection, and anti-tamper features that will wipe encryption keys in an emergency situation. In simple terms, if a drone with an Ironclad autopilot were to crash in unfriendly territory, Ironclad could erase sensitive data automatically, before it could fall into the wrong hands.

“For potential E400 users that need a higher level of security, the possibilities are exciting,” said Taylor.

Hettler is especially enthusiastic about the E400’s VTOL capabilities, which allow for easier operation, especially in field environments.

“AFRL isn’t using pure multirotor drones much. The vast majority of their drones have been fixed wing up until now,” said Hettler. “But these platforms often need dedicated runways and support equipment that won’t necessarily work in the field. A VTOL hybrid platform like the E400 gives them the luxury of straight, vertical lift-off. They don’t need the runway, but they can still do fixed-wing missions. AFRL is excited about testing this platform.” Taylor hopes to introduce the E400 with Ironclad as a standard option in the future. Those interested in the E400 can contact Event 38 at sales@event38.com.

E450 Demonstrates Hydrogen Fuel Cell Endurance

EVENT 38 UNMANNED SYSTEMS AND PARTNERS COMPLETE SUCCESSFUL DEMO FLIGHT OF FIXED-WING VTOL DRONE POWERED BY FUEL CELL

Event 38 Unmanned Systems, a leading manufacturer of American-made mapping drones, announces the successful completion of a demo flight of the E450, a drone powered by a hydrogen fuel cell on Monday, June 13, at the Kent State University airport.

The demo flight was the culmination of a multi-year project that started in 2020 and was sponsored by the Ohio Federal Research Network (OFRN), a program managed by Parallax Advanced Research. Event 38 partnered with other experts at Kent State University, Case Western Reserve University, the University of Dayton, and Wright State University to explore the possibility of powering drones with fuel cells. The fuel cell used for the project was purchased from Ballard Unmanned Systems, which was acquired by Honeywell in October of 2020.

Fuel cells are a promising power source for drones. Using a fuel cell can extend a drone’s flight time by a significant margin, which is a great advantage. Additionally, because fuel cell power relies on fewer moving parts, drones powered by fuel cell require far less maintenance and are extremely quiet compared to gas-powered drones.

“This team was among the first to experiment with using fuel cells to power fixed-wing, VTOL drones,” said Jeff Taylor, founder and CEO of Event 38. “At Event 38, we’ve been making drones for a decade, so we were very eager to play a role in discovering how fuel cells can shape the future of unmanned flight technology. Plus we recently completed another OFRN project where we integrated a 3D-printed antenna with the E400, our newest fixed-wing mapping drone, so we were excited to be part of another OFRN project.”

In order to accommodate the significant size of the fuel cell, Taylor and the Event 38 team scaled up the design of the E400 to create the E450. They customized the carbon fiber structure of the E450 to fit the fuel cell and tank. They also developed a custom thermal management setup to keep the fuel cell cool while in flight. Design and assembly were conducted entirely at Event 38’s headquarters in Richfield, Ohio, where the company has robust composite prototyping and custom manufacturing capabilities.

Event 38 Principal Engineer Mathew Wright managed integration of the fuel cell and power management systems with the E450’s flight controller and ground control station.

“The autopilot and power system need to be more closely integrated for a fuel cell compared with a battery or gasoline engine,” said Wright. “The power needs to be regulated in real time to optimize for changing power draw and anticipated power bursts to climb or land under VTOL.”

After several years of work, the entire team, along with a representative from OFRN, gathered on Monday, June 13, at Kent State University Airport for a demo flight of the completed drone. The E450 flew successfully for two hours, achieving Level 7 — “system prototype demonstration in a relevant environment” — on the technology readiness level (TRL) scale. Based on an energy use analysis study conducted after the demo, Taylor is confident that the drone could fly for up to 6 hours with a fully pressurized Hydrogen tank.

The success of the project bodes well for the future of fuel cells as a power source for drones.

“In the past, there were a number of drone applications that were deemed impractical because gas and battery power weren’t sufficient due to limited range, noise, or maintenance concerns,” said Taylor. “We’re excited to see which applications we can revisit now that fuel cell power is an option. For example, while Event 38 is not focused on delivery drones, our colleagues in the industry may now be closer to making delivery drones a reality with fuel cell power. Theoretically, if someone wanted to start a drone delivery service with a fleet of Event 38 drones, they could.”

Another exciting possibility is more effective aerial surveillance. Noisy gas-powered drones have to fly high to maintain secrecy. Because fuel cells use electric motors, they’re much quieter and stealthier. An operator can fly the drone low, below the clouds, and use an off-the-shelf sensor to get high-resolution imagery or video. And thanks to the long range of fuel cell power, operators can monitor a site from much farther away.

“In terms of flight time, this drone is truly unmatched among its competitors,” said Taylor. “We’re proud to have been a part of yet another project that’s setting a new standard for drone performance.”

Companies interested in purchasing an E450 can choose between fuel cell, gas, and battery power, based on their specific requirements. The E400, Event 38’s newest fixed-wing VTOL mapping drone, was launched earlier this year and is also available for shorter range missions.

E400 VTOL Mapping Drone Now Available

Event 38 Unmanned Systems, a leading manufacturer of American-made mapping drones, announces the release of the E400, a fixed-wing mapping drone with vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) functionality and a payload capacity of three pounds. The E400 is designed and manufactured in America.

The E400 is an extremely high-performance drone, with an industry-leading flight time of ninety minutes. This extra flight time translates to greater range and extra margin, so operators can gather more data in a single mission. Additionally, the E400 is much more stable at altitude and in windy conditions, making it more durable and versatile than a multirotor drone.

The E400 incorporates one of the premium features of a multirotor drone: Vertical take-off and landing (VTOL). The E400 can take off or land anywhere at the touch of a button, eliminating the need for specialty launch or recovery equipment.

“We’ve been making fixed-wing drones for over a decade, but the E400 is our first fixed-wing drone with VTOL capabilities. We’re extremely proud to offer this feature,” said Jeff Taylor, founder & CEO of Event38. “At Event 38, we’re always looking for ways to make our drones more useful and accessible. Adding VTOL functionality improved the user friendliness of the E400 by leaps and bounds.”

Event 38 began exploring VTOL functionality for fixed-wing drones in 2019 during a partnership with the Air Force’s Rapid Sustainment Office (RSO). Taylor and his team ran trials with the Air National Guard on a military-grade, carbon fiber, fixed-wing VTOL aircraft, which is now commercially available as the E400.

Another user-friendly feature of the E400 is the plane’s hot-swap payload bay. The E400’s payload can be changed in under a minute without specialty tools or skills, minimizing down time between missions. Customers can choose from a variety of specialty cameras and other advanced sensors, including high-resolution aerial photogrammetry, thermal and multispectral imagery, LiDAR, and live video streaming. The E400’s payload pay has an open interface, so customers can integrate virtually any camera or sensor with Event 38’s open-source autopilot software.

Event 38 is now accepting orders for the E400 fixed-wing mapping drone. Each E400 is manufactured at Event 38’s headquarters in Richfield, Ohio.

“The E400 is the only drone of its kind that’s made on American soil,” said Taylor. “This drone is the culmination of everything we’ve learned over the past ten years and the advancements we made in partnership with the military, and we’re incredibly proud to bring the E400 to market.”

For more information about the E400 and Event 38 Unmanned Systems, please visit www.event38.com.

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About Event 38 Unmanned Systems:

Event 38 designs and manufactures fixed-wing VTOL drones in Richfield, Ohio. Since 2011, we’ve sold over 600 aircraft to industry and governments all around the globe. Our drones capture geo-tagged data for a range of industries and applications. Event 38 drones can be customized for high-resolution aerial photogrammetry, thermal and multispectral imagery, LiDAR, and live video streaming.

3D-Printed Antenna Demonstrated on E400 Drone

Earlier this year, Event 38 Unmanned Systems successfully flew a drone fitted with a 3D-printed antenna at Kent State University. The project, backed by the Ohio Federal Research Network (OFRN), was a collaboration between Event 38, Kent State University, Youngstown State University, and Youngstown Business Incubator (YBI), who led the project.

Event 38 consulted with YBI to explore the possibility of creating a 3D-printed antenna to replace the nose cone on the E400, an Event 38 mapping drone.

“3D printing is an exciting option for creating geometrically complex components, such as antennas,” said Jeff Taylor, CEO of Event 38. “Traditional manufacturing methods, such as machining, aren’t optimal for unusual shapes, which can require a lot of tooling and produce significant waste material. 3D printing is much more efficient for certain geometries.”

YBI experimented with different 3D-printed antenna designs to find one that matched the dimensional needs of the E400 and achieved the right frequency and distribution pattern.

The 3D-printed antenna created by YBI was fully integrated on the E400 and flown at an OFRN project demonstration at Kent State University.

“Geometrically complex 3D-printed antennas are very promising technology,” said Taylor. “In partnership with YBI, we proved the feasibility of a dual-purpose nose cone that served as both antenna and aerodynamic structure. But there’s potential to create structural parts, too. We could print a loadbearing piece that also serves as an antenna and thus replace a structural element, which reduces the overall weight of the aircraft.”

There are several applications in which full integration of the antenna into the existing shape of the aircraft is beneficial. In virtually any context, an integrated antenna is safer from bumps and damage than a whip antenna that protrudes from the plane. In the context of a hypersonic aircraft, a protruding antenna requires extra heat shielding, whereas an antenna that integrates with the shape of the fuselage could withstand both heat and hypersonic airflow without compromising performance.

Light weighting can also contribute meaningfully to overall performance of an unmanned aircraft. A lighter drone can fly longer and handle a heavier payload on the same amount of power.

Taylor is optimistic about the future of 3D-printed antenna and other sensors. “There may be long-term benefits we haven’t even realized yet. It could change the way we design and build drones in the future.”

To learn more about Event 38 or the E400, visit www.event38.com.

E400 Displayed at Air National Guard (ANG) Domestic Capability Priorities Conference

Event 38 Unmanned Systems Inc., was recently invited to attend the Air National Guard Domestic Capability Priorities Conference in Denver, Colorado. This annual event allows the Air National Guard (ANG) to review their acquisition priorities for the coming year.

Event 38 featured the E400 VTOL after completing a successful demonstration for the Air National Guard 178th Wing Fire and Emergency Services in late 2020. The E400’s VTOL capability is ideal for a variety of emergency response scenarios including search and rescue, swift water rescue, and fire response among others. 

Learn More About the E400 Here.

Event 38 Adds Sony a6100 Support to Companion Computer for E400

Event 38’s most recent product, the E400, is designed to carry DSLR payloads in landscape orientation, a more efficient orientation for mapping. For this reason, Event 38 partnered with Sony to use the a6100, a lightweight, high resolution camera with a large APS-C sized sensor, which is crucial to produce clear, more accurate photogrammetric models.

Additionally, the Sony a6100 is now supported by Companion Computer, which is an Event 38-created device that allows a camera to talk directly to the autopilot in real-time. Companion Computer provides up-to-date information on the camera’s status, pictures it’s taking, current GPS coordinates, and pitch, roll, and yaw data from the autopilot AHRS.

Having the ability to have information like photos in real-time makes the postprocessing workflow not only more efficient, but allows the operator to check that the images are being photographed as desired, meaning good exposure and overlap, and the target area is captured.

E400 specs and pricing can be found here.

3D Printed Antenna Project Progresses to Integration

Event 38 is currently working on a project supported by OFRN to 3D print antennas for sUAS (small unmanned aircraft system). The intent is to use additive manufacturing research to produce geometrically complex antennas with unique structural and aerodynamic properties. In this instance, the 3D model replaces the aircraft nose cone to function as both an antenna and an aerodynamic structure.

The part is made with a combination of metal and polymer 3D printing to achieve the antenna. Currently, Event 38 is integrating the antenna onto its E400 aircraft and plan to perform flight demonstration and functional evaluation this summer.

Event 38 Unmanned Systems Completes Delivery of E400 To Air National Guard

Event 38 Unmanned Systems recently completed delivery of the E400 to the Air National Guard (ANG) 178th Wing Fire and Emergency Management teams. The E400 was identified by the Air Force Rapid Sustainment Office (RSO) as a promising commercial technology that could reduce cost and increase readiness for multiple Air Force sustainment objectives. The aircraft was customized for ANG, adding VTOL as well as a live-streaming thermal and RGB video payload. Additionally, Event 38 designed a custom all-in-one handheld ground control station. The aircraft is intended for use by emergency response personnel.

Event 38 provided in-person training, documentation, and the user manual. Four operators were trained to proficiency in 1.5 days of class time and practice flights.

The smaller team allowed Event 38 to provide a more hands-on approach to training, giving each member the opportunity to disassemble and reassemble the aircraft and act as pilot in command. 

The operators found the training to be beneficial and efficient. This group had limited experience with UAS, but found it was easy to set up and control. Learn more about the E400 VTOL here.

Event 38 Develops UAS For Wildfires

Event 38 Unmanned Systems recently completed a project with a UAS service provider to develop and field an aircraft for wildfire response. The aircraft carries an EO/IR gimbal tied in to a geotagging system that provides real time fire location data to firefighters. It is currently flying missions on behalf of the Department of the Interior.

While this company had previously worked with UAS for ISR and mapping, none of their aircraft were suited for wildfire response. The work calls for long endurance flights at high density altitude within a TFR, and usually without space available for traditional launch and recovery equipment. The drone engineered in collaboration with Event 38 features electric vertical takeoff and landing and a gasoline engine for forward thrust. These are crucial for flying in mountainous regions and over forests, allowing for long flights and requiring minimal space for takeoff and landing.

Event 38 integrated the avionics, including the autopilot, and developed custom flight software and ground control station functions. The team was also responsible for flight-testing the drone from first flight to final testing with DOI.

With up to 9 hours endurance, a ceiling above 12,000’ MSL and an all-up weight over 65 pounds, this project demonstrates Event 38’s ability to develop and deploy high performance UAS for flight in mixed manned/unmanned airspace.

Event 38 Unmanned Systems to Build Heavy Lift eVTOL

Event 38 Unmanned Systems has been commissioned by a university research team to build a heavy lift electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft (eVTOL) for a highly specialized physics payload. The partnership will allow the university to perform a cutting-edge research project and allow Event 38 to expand its portfolio of uniquely capable unmanned aircraft.

The team at Event 38 is responsible for building the eVTOL to lift a 150-pound payload and hold it almost completely motionless for data collection purposes. The aircraft will be impressive in size – 11’ x 11’ and 600lbs all up weight with a flight time of 30 minutes.

Event 38 was selected for this opportunity due to their deep understanding of aerodynamics, electronics, and flight software using Ardupilot and PX4 flight controllers. Possessing these capabilities makes the team uniquely qualified to take on such a challenging aircraft build.

“The work we do at Event 38 lends itself perfectly to this research because the size and sensitivity of the payload require careful design consideration,” said Event 38 Founder and President, Jeff Taylor. “It’s a more economical solution and poses less risk to personnel compared with using a manned helicopter.”

Event 38 believes this technology has many applications including disaster response, personnel recovery and industrial logistics. The first flight is currently scheduled for Q4, 2020 with additional development to follow.