Event 38 recently completed flight demonstrations of a custom-built aircraft that is a major milestone in a multi-year research project into structural energy storage led by Dr. Vikas Prakash at Case Western Reserve University. Event 38 founder, Jeff Taylor, had previously studied aerospace engineering under Dr. Prakash in 2008 and said, “I’m proud that Event 38 has reached a level where we can collaborate on cutting edge research projects, and working with my former professor makes it all the more exciting for me.”
For the demonstration, Event 38 built a custom version of its latest E400 composite aircraft, with battery cells molded directly into the structure of the wings. This technique saves weight and allows the aircraft to store more energy for flight without reducing the payload volume or increasing the size of the aircraft’s structure. Event 38 uses composite construction techniques to conform the aircraft fuselage and wings to the custom shape dictated by the payload or mission profile. The E400 used in this demonstration was also outfitted with a Ping2020 ADS-B transceiver to help improve situational awareness of manned aircraft flying nearby.
As part of the demonstration, Event 38 coordinated with the Air Force Research Lab (AFRL) and the Ohio UAS Test Center to fly on the grounds of Springfield Beckley Airport immediately adjacent to active runways. Event 38’s E400 passed a combined technical and safety review board administered by AFRL in order to fly under their Certificate of Authorization (COA) for flight test activities. Event 38 implemented multiple fail-safe procedures to ensure that the E400 could not, under any circumstances, exit the boundaries of the COA or interfere with manned traffic.
A series of systems, procedures, and technologies were used to ensure safety of manned traffic operating near the Springfield airport. The Ohio UAS Test Center and AFRL have collaborated to build a one-of-a-kind Ground Based Detect and Avoid (GBDAA) system centered around Springfield. The system uses combined radar returns from nearby airports to provide comprehensive radar coverage of a 225 square-mile area. The fused radar data is routed to a mobile operations center, where it can be accessed and read by test center personnel and operators. The system is set up to enable BLOS flights throughout the 225 square-mile area, where test center personnel can manage mixed manned and unmanned operations.
Before flying, AFRL issued a Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) for nearby traffic to be aware of the unmanned operations. For the duration of the flights, Ohio UAS Test Center personnel operated radios to notify incoming and departing traffic of the nearby unmanned traffic. Dozens of takeoffs and landings took place while the E400 loitered at 600′ AGL just a couple hundred feet away from the runway, without causing any safety concerns.
The flight was monitored by an Event 38 pilot in command located inside the mobile ground station and a visual observer who maintained sight of the aircraft. The pilot inside monitored the ground control station, performed trend monitoring as part of the structural energy test procedures, and liaised with the Ohio UAS Test Center airspace manager operating the radar and radios.
The test compared an E400 fitted with structural energy to a standard Li-Ion battery configuration. The addition of structural energy elements allowed the E400 configuration to achieve 1.6x greater endurance than the standard configuration, which is volume-limited with certain payloads. This resulted in a three-hour flight, a duration practically unheard of for hand-launched, commercial UAS.
Event 38 customers benefit from the success of this demonstration in two ways.
First, Event 38 aircraft offer an even greater endurance advantage while fully equipped with the most capable mapping and surveillance sensors used on small UAS. For collecting orthophotography, LiDAR point clouds, or monitoring critical infrastructure, the E400 leads its class in terms of endurance and versatility. Second, customers benefit directly from the experience the Event 38 team has gained in documentation and procedures used to receive approval to fly under the AFRL COA on an active airport. We can advise customers on achieving regulatory compliance through implementation of risk mitigating technology and procedures.