Most drones rely on a multirotor design for propulsion. Many drones take a fixed-wing approach to increase range and flight time and some are even hybrid in nature. However, monocopters or coaxial drones are hard to come by. The Spirit drone developed by Ascent AeroSystems is a unique coaxial drone that can seemingly be operated in any environment. It is one of the most compact drones and yet a highly versatile one.
Spirit: The Ultimate Rugged UAV
When we think of rugged drones, often pictures of camouflaged heavy-duty military drones pop up. The Spirit, on the other hand, is as compact as one can get without losing functionality. It is a cylindrical-shaped coaxial drone that weighs just 3.2 kg. It features a highly modular design with a dual payload option. The feature that stands out is its ability to operate under harsh weather conditions. The drone has a rating of IP56 coupled with a top speed of 100km/h to withstand pouring rain or strong gusts of wind.
Whether a UAV is used for enterprise or military applications, operators look for easily swappable options. For instance, a drone operator may require data from multiple payloads. Switching payloads on conventional UAVs is time-consuming and often runs into compatibility issues. The Spirit aims to solve that with a simple twist and lock modular design. The drone has two payload bays – one at the bottom and the second on its head. This design also makes the drone easily upgradable.
Talking about endurance, the drone has an average performance. Considering its compact size, the drone’s endurance is limited to 38 minutes with one battery and 53 minutes with two. However, this flight time can vary based on the payload configuration which may bring the number slightly down. Therefore, Spirit is suited for short-distance operations such as reconnaissance, surveillance, and tethered operations for continuous use.
Dimensions: 12 inches x 4.2 inches
Weight (without battery): 1.8 kg
Maximum Takeoff Weight: 6.1 kg
Environmental Rating: IP65 with additional MIL-810G standards available
Flight Time: ~38-53 minutes
Maximum Speed: 100 km/h
Maximum Altitude: 5,000 meters (14,600 ft.)
Range: 20 km (12 miles) FCC; 12km (7 miles) CE & SRRC
Applications and Shortcomings
While the Spirit scores high in terms of adaptability, design, and ruggedness, it falls short in terms of endurance. Realistically, when equipped with two sensors, the flight time is severely affected. Therefore, an operator would have to swap and recharge batteries several times to complete a large-scale mission. Therefore, the most optimum use of Spirit would be under law enforcement or to monitor a small region.
Another factor that could potentially undermine the Spirit is the non-aerodynamic design and stability. While the drone is compact and easy to deploy, its lack of aerodynamic design can become a factor that works against it. Quadcopters have a streamlined body to minimize drag from wind resistance. However, Spirit would have to exert more power against high wind speeds which would eventually use up a lot of battery, thereby limiting performance.
Deploying the Spirit drone to assess damage during crisis scenarios is ideal. Since the drone can be literally carried around in a small backpack pocket, it makes for an extremely handy yet advanced monitoring system.