Beta Technologies revealed its new eVTOL prototype on Friday during a 30-mile (50-kilometer) airlift from its headquarters in Burlington, Vermont, to the flight test facility in Plattsburgh, New York. There, the new aircraft will continue the ground testing already begun in Vermont, with on-the-wing and hover tests and finally transitions between the two — all expected within the next few months.

Beta Technologies revealed its new eVTOL prototype on Friday during a 30-mile 

Beta’s much-anticipated Alia eVTOL made its public debut on June 12 during its move to a flight test facility in New York. Eric Adams Photo

The fixed-rotor Alia, as the aircraft is presently code-named, succeeds the tilt-rotor Ava prototype, which was revealed in January 2019 and which the company used to validate propulsion and flight-control systems as well as better understand the aerodynamics of eVTOL in small aircraft. (Though Alia is relatively large compared to its eVTOL competitors.) The new 6,000-pound (2,720-kilogram) airplane is completely fly-by-wire and uses a 50-foot (15-meter) arched wing for lift in horizontal flight; four fixed rotors, mounted high at wing-level, for vertical flight; and a rear pusher prop to speed it along more efficiently in while moving forward. In that phase, the four rotors would be locked in their lowest drag position.

According to founder Kyle Clark, Alia already has months of tethered hover tests under its belt, along with a few high-speed taxi tests using a wheeled landing gear assembly — affectionately known as “the shopping cart” — in place of the airplane’s normal skids. “We completed high-speed taxi tests the other day, and that was a huge boost,” Clark said. “We were able to ensure that we have pitch stability in the airplane and can lift the nose wheels off the ground and put them back down. We’re penetrating the aerodynamics just in time for the move to Plattsburgh, where we can continue in earnest.”

The airplane was built at Beta’s hangar on the grounds of Burlington International Airport, but the steady cadence of commercial flights there, as well as Vermont’s Air National Guard unit flying Lockheed Martin F-35s twice a day, means that conducting a proper flight test program with several flights each day would be virtually impossible amid the ever-present risk of a new aircraft type needing occasional tows to and from the runway. Beta’s plan has all along been to transfer Alia to Plattsburgh, just as it did with Ava. That airport, a former U.S. Air Force base, has ramps and runways built to accommodate Boeing B-52 bombers, and thus plenty of room. It only has limited daily service and no control tower.

Throughout the flight test program, Beta will effectively serve as a private air taxi service, with company pilots shuttling personnel back and forth across the lake several times each day. Its 15-aircraft flight department includes five pilots total — most ex-military — with several additional team members in training. Clark and Nick Warren, a former U.S. Marine Corps pilot who flew Marine One for President Barack Obama, will be the initial test pilots for Alia.

Following Friday’s airlift (via a Sikorsky S-61 helicopter operated by Helicarrier), the flight test program will continue at Plattsburgh with more tethered hover test and high-speed taxi tests, then progress to horizontal flight while still on the wheeled landing gear, to fully understand the aircraft’s behavior as a conventional airplane, Clark said. Only then will it proceed to vertical flight, via untethered hovers initially then controlled ascents and descents, before folding in the transition from horizontal to vertical and back.

Alia being flown across Lake Champlain to its flight test facility in Plattsburgh, New York. Eric Adams Photo

The team hopes it will validate the work to make a clean, simple design. This was initially inspired by the Arctic tern, a bird with the longest migration on earth, with annual distances averaging around 45,000 miles (72,000 km). Its hyper-efficient aerodynamics are reflected in Alia’s arcing wings and tapering surfaces. Aerodynamicist Mark Page, of DZYNE Technologies, then helped hone Alia’s configuration and overall aerodynamics to meet the efficiency challenges of combined vertical and horizontal flight capability — absent the furious wing-flapping a tern can use to spring into flight.

“We selected a wing that would allow us to go slow enough to enable a compromise design between dedicated hover props and dedicated cruise props,” Page said. “If you want an airplane to both pick itself up in the air and push itself forward, you need to either change the pitch of the prop drastically, or it has to have that compromise between the two.”

Using variable-pitch propellers felt as off-limits as tilting props, as both required significant, heavy hardware, especially if there were eight, 10, or more propellers on the aircraft. Tilting wing systems proved even more problematic, introducing unappealing, asymmetrical stall characteristics as well awkward transitions to backward flight in hovers. The final product had to answer to all these challenges. “Because it’s VTOL, it’s no-joke loads — not just some secondary aerodynamic load,” Page said. “You’re picking up the whole damn airplane and contorting it around in gusty winds.”

To zero in on a viable design, Page focused on mitigating drag, increasing the tail size, and using a bigger wing, all of which improved stability and efficiency at low speeds. The engineers also created more robust propeller designs and torquier motors to enable immediate, precision control of the aircraft as it progressed through multiple phases of flight, as well as the ability to hover on low power, reducing the draw on the battery. The final design is extremely “economic,” Page said, with the least amount of moving parts while still enabling the transition, and the computer-controlled quad-rotor configuration allows for easy movement in all directions while in the hover mode.

Making Alia efficient in forward flight meant counteracting as much as possible all the tactics they deployed to optimize vertical flight, including the two outriggers on which the four rotors are mounted. They are aerodynamic in both directions, in that they don’t introduce their own turbulence or vortices, and they’re also designed to not amplify the acoustics, which protrusions that large that tend to do.

Another key challenge has been developing a control system that feels balanced, natural, and predictable for pilots in all modes of flight, with none feeling unstable and the controls never mushy or uncertain. Persistent control authority is key, as is harmony between all the control surfaces activated in each mode and during the transition. “The goal is a wide transition envelope, so that it transitions smoothly at a variety of speeds, altitudes, air densities, wind gusts, and controller forces,” Page said. “It has to accommodate imperfect conditions and imperfect piloting. Control harmony allows you to have that without becoming unstable. It makes it much more enjoyable for the pilot to fly, and much safer.”

Further tuning of the airflow helped achieve what Page thinks will prove to be a smooth, laminar aircraft with low drag and minimal aerodynamic interference from various interfaces on the airplane — such as landing gear, the tail assembly, and the intersection of the wing and the fuselage. The latter is a particularly problematic area, as it tends to cancel out efficiencies achieved elsewhere. To manage it, Page made the wing and body connection extremely blended. Not so much that it could be called a blended-wing-body airplane, but enough to diminish the losses.

All of this was validated through computer simulation, in particular via the X-Plane software developed by Laminar Research — a program that’s renowned for its highly accurate physics simulations. Creator Austin Meyer serves as an advisor to Beta, and contributed to its control system designs. Test pilot Camron “Arlo” Guthrie, who flew General Dynamics F-16s for the Air National Guard, has been leading the integration of this simulation technology to ensure it’s smoothly deployed for training as well as aerodynamic modeling and flight-control development.

“We have a totally new propulsion system and aircraft configuration, and these need unique avionics, displays, control interfaces, and more,” Guthrie said while demonstrating Alia’s flight simulator. “We’re now in our 10th iteration of our flight controls, and we’re constantly testing it all out here to see how it works. It’s a truly immersive, visual environment to work in.”

Guthrie said the advance to aggressive flight test will allow them to hone the algorithms and aircraft responses to pilot inputs — as well as help them make sure pilots can intuitively grasp what the airplane is doing. So far, flying the simulator has suggested that Alia should be an easy bird to fly. “It’s a light touch, just as you’d expect in a very high-performance airplane,” Guthrie said. “But it’s also a very low-workload airplane and has excellent handling qualities. To land you just get down to the stall speed of conventional airplanes, and then lean into it and you’re in horizontal flight.”

Alia’s flight test program will continue with more more tethered hovers and high-speed taxi tests before progressing to horizontal and then vertical flight. Eric Adams Photo

Beta’s first application for Alia will be to accommodate the mission of United Therapeutics, the pharmaceutical company that provided initial funding for Beta. United Therapeutics is developing manmade organs for human transplant, and founder Martine Rothblatt — herself an accomplished aviator who also sponsored the development of an electric version of the Robinson R44 helicopter by Tier One Engineering — wanted a reliable, green system for distributing those organs on-demand. Clark said the urgency of that mission compelled the Beta team to select a configuration that would generate the greatest range and be the most safe and reliable feasible system — that is, with the fewest amount of breakable moving parts, and also the most redundancy.

The motors Beta developed are essentially two motors in one for each rotor, so the likelihood of failure is dramatically reduced, and the minimization of moving parts will help speed certification — a challenge faced by all eVTOL manufacturers. It has also made the development process filled with far fewer unknowns. “We’re not trying to break the laws of physics,” said mechanical engineer Manon Belzile. “You might not be able to find the most lightweight solution right away, but we can certainly find solutions that will make this aircraft fly. Then the more we fly, the more we’ll be able to optimize everything. It’s an engineering challenge, but we know we’re going to get there.”

Fast on the heels of the United Therapeutics adoption, Alia will be adapted for commercial and industrial use, a role as an air taxi, and military applications. Beta is already proving integral to the U.S. Air Force’s Agility Prime effort to spur the development of electric aircraft. Along with Joby Aviation, it’s one of just two companies to recently advance to the next stage of development support from the Air Force in that effort.

Beta hasn’t estimated Alia’s range and other specifications formally yet, though it will say it’s targeting 250 miles (400 kilometers) and charge times under one hour. Its battery technology is still not fully disclosed, though its packs are designed and manufactured in-house from commercially available lithium-ion cells. Propulsion engineer Herman Wiegman, a former energy storage specialist for GE Global Research, said the program is viable with existing battery technology, albeit with careful integration.

“The battery pack is fundamental, and very integral to the success of the aircraft,” he noted. “But you have to be careful about the presence of the mass in the aircraft, how much frontal area is dedicated to the battery packs, how much drag will be induced because of their presence. One doesn’t simply purchase a battery pack off the common market and integrate it into an aircraft.” He added, however, that their mass can be advantageous, helping stabilize the aircraft against wind gusts while in a hover, for instance.

Reimagining The Experience Of Aerial Creativity, Mavic Air 2 Is The Smartest, Safest And Easiest-To-Fly Consumer Drone to Date

Get Ready To Up Your Creative Game With The New DJI Mavic Air 2

DJI, the global leader in civilian drones and aerial imaging technology, today ushers in a new era of aerial creativity with the Mavic Air 2 drone, combining high-grade imaging, intuitive yet advanced flight performance and revolutionary smart and safe technology in the best all-around drone we’ve ever made.

Created to make capturing unique, high-quality content from the air simple, fun, and safe, Mavic Air 2 offers flagship capabilities in a compact and easy to use folding drone that features 8K functionality. A larger 1/2” camera sensor offers high-resolution photos and videos to make content stand out, while advanced programmed flight modes, intelligent features and imaging technology make capturing professional-looking content effortless. Pilots can now stay in the sky longer with an enhanced maximum flight time, capture vivid imagery with completely revamped autonomous capabilities, and wholly transform their content with in-app editing features.

“Mavic Air 2 is another milestone for DJI, demonstrating that our smartest consumer drone does not have to be the largest,” said DJI President Roger Luo. “While the Mavic Air 2 bears all the hallmarks of the Mavic drone family, we had to completely rethink its design and development process. Our goal was to create a drone that offered the best overall experience possible to even the most novice pilot. We hope our drones can help boost creativity and become a fun yet educational experience that can be enjoyed, even at this unprecedented moment in history.”

Robust Imaging Capabilities for Every Type of Creator

The new Mavic Air 2 reimagines how quality content can be captured in a portable, folding drone. No matter the skill level of the pilot, Mavic Air 2’s features and technology are sure to appeal to every creative visionary. Mavic Air 2 is the first drone in the Mavic series to offer 4K video at 60 fps and 120 Mbps. Additionally, users can record unique content using HDR video[1], 4X Slow Motion in 1080p at 120 fps or 8X Slow Motion in 1080p at 240 fps. Pilots can record 12-megapixel[2] images or choose a new high-resolution 48-megapixel feature that photographs in stunning detail, while a mechanical 3-axis gimbal helps compensate for camera shake to create smooth and stable footage, even in unpredictable scenarios. Taking full advantage of the large Quad Bayer 1/2″ sensor, the Mavic Air 2 is the perfect tool to take creativity to the next level with a suite of image capture modes. The newly added SmartPhoto records 12-megapixel photos using advanced scene analysis and deep learning to automatically choose one of three image capture options.

  • HDR photos: Mavic Air 2 automatically captures seven varying exposures of the same photograph, merging them together to bring out a highly dynamic image.
  • Hyperlight: Hyperlight is designed for low-light scenarios, taking multiple photographs and merging them to bring out a clear image with less of the noise which usually occurs in low-light scenes.
  • Scene Recognition: Mavic Air 2 can recognize five categories of scenes including sunsets, blue skies, grass, snow, and trees, then optimize settings to make the photograph pop by bringing out the highest degree of color, detail, and tones.

Unparalleled Flight Performance

Mavic Air 2 completely rebuilt the basics of drone flight to open up the skies for more exploration for everyone who is passionate about drone technology. Despite only weighing as much as a small water bottle at 570 grams, the Mavic Air 2 features new motors, new electronic speed controllers (ESCs), enhanced battery technology and an aerodynamic design to provide a maximum flight time of up to 34 minutes. DJI’s proprietary OcuSync 2.0 transmission technology has been upgraded to deliver an extremely reliable and stable HD video feed from the drone at a maximum distance of 10km[3]. OcuSync 2.0 supports both 2.4GHz and 5.8GHz frequency bands and uses an auto-switching feature to move between the two based on signal strength, while anti-interference technology blocks unwanted signals to keep the video feed clear.

Setting a New Standard for Drone Safety

Mavic Air 2 is equipped with unprecedented new safety features to help make flying as safe as possible. Obstacle sensors on the front and rear of the drone warn pilots when they’re too close to an object and can also be set to stop the drone from moving any closer to avoid collision. Additional sensors and auxiliary lights on the bottom of Mavic Air 2 assist with several functions including smooth, automatic landing even in difficult lighting. Mavic Air 2 also comes equipped with our GEO geofencing solution to help keep drones away from the highest-risk locations, such as busy airports.

Advanced Pilot Assistance System (APAS) 3.0 brings the next level of autonomous flying to DJI drones. When users enable APAS 3.0, as obstacles come into the drone’s path, Mavic Air 2 will create a new path around, under or over the object to avoid collision, giving pilots the confidence to fly in more complex situations while focusing on capturing their ideal images. Using 3D mapping, the updated version aids in smooth transitions and more fluid movements around objects even in highly complex environments.

In accordance with DJI’s industry-leading 10-point Elevating Safety vision published last year, Mavic Air 2 is also DJI’s first consumer drone designed to include AirSense technology[4], which provides enhanced safety by warning drone pilots of other aircraft nearby. AirSense uses aviation technology known as ADS-B to receive signals from nearby airplanes and helicopters, and displays their location on the drone pilot’s control screen. As these other aircraft approach the drone, AirSense will warn the drone pilot with messages, sounds and vibrations, enhancing the pilot’s awareness and ability to move the drone safely away.

“DJI has an unwavering commitment to enhance drone safety with technology, and Mavic Air 2 implements yet another pioneering safety solution for drone operations,” said DJI Vice President of Policy & Legal Affairs Brendan Schulman. “Our ambitious commitment to installing ADS-B in our new product models means Mavic Air 2 will be the world’s largest single deployment of ADS-B receiver technology, fulfilling and furthering our vision as the industry’s leader on voluntary safety efforts.”

Powerful Intelligent Features

Mavic Air 2 is packed with optimized intelligent features allowing users to quickly and easily record images and video that deserves to be shared with the world. FocusTrack[5] is the most advanced tracking feature on any DJI drone and offers three different capture modes:

  • ActiveTrack 3.0: Select a subject for Mavic Air 2 to automatically follow. The third iteration of ActiveTrack uses state-of-the-art mapping technology and new flight path algorithms to offer improved subject tracking and obstacle avoidance, along with the ability to quickly re-engage the subject if it temporarily moves behind an object.
  • Point of Interest 3.0: Set an automated flight path around a specific subject. The updated iteration improves surface recognition to better dynamically track subjects.
  • Spotlight 2.0: Found in professional DJI drones, Spotlight locks a subject in the frame while the user has free operation of the drone’s movement.

A Hyperlapse feature brings the visual appeal of timelapse but with the added element of the drone physically moving. For the first time, Hyperlapse can be shot in a max resolution of 8K[6] while pilots can choose four flight modes including Free movement, Circle, CourseLock and WayPoints. Pilots can also choose from several pre-programmed flight maneuvers known as QuickShots, which use a 3-axis mechanical gimbal and electronic image stabilization for unmatched video quality. Simply tap the desired mode and Mavic Air 2 will automatically create stunning, cinematic content. Pilots can choose Rocket, Circle, Dronie, Helix, Boomerang or Asteroid.

Intuitive App, Convenient Editing and a Wealth of Accessories

An updated version of the DJI Fly app adds more advanced functionality for Mavic Air 2 while maintaining its user-friendly navigation. New tutorials get users familiarized with the drone and quickly in the air to start capturing compelling footage. Easy to use in-app editing features make the DJI Fly app a one-stop tool to edit and adjust the footage captured. Mavic Air 2 will be supported by a host of additional useful accessories including a shoulder bag, ND filter sets, propeller guards, protective case, tablet holder for the controller and monitor hood.

Pricing and Availability

The COVID-19 pandemic has introduced new complexities for global shipping and logistics of many products. As a result, the Mavic Air 2 will be initially available for immediate purchase in China today while other regions will begin taking preorders today with an expected ship time of mid-May. Mavic Air 2 will be available in two purchasing options: a standard package which includes Mavic Air 2, one battery, remote controller and all the required wires and cables for $799 USD, and the Fly More option which includes all items from the standard version as well as a shoulder bag, ND filters, charging hub, and 3 batteries for $988 USD. Mavic Air 2 is available for preorder through all authorized retailers as well DJI’s online store: https://store.dji.com/product/mavic-air-2

DJI Care Refresh

DJI Care Refresh is now available for Mavic Air 2. For a small  additional charge, DJI Care Refresh offers comprehensive coverage for incidents such as collision and water damage as well as up to two replacement units within one year. Receive your replacement even sooner with DJI Care Refresh Express. DJI Care Refresh also includes VIP after-sales support and free two-way shipping. For a full list of details and pricing, please visit: https://www.dji.com/service/djicare-refresh

 To learn more about Mavic Air 2, please visit: www.dji.com/mavic-air-2

Small unmanned aerial systems (sUAS) technology continues to provide global organizations with new solutions for inventory, delivery, and surveillance. And as those capabilities expand into new business and consumer applications, so must security providers ensure that the increase in sUAS traffic is monitored, and any uncooperative or threatening sUAS are identified and addressed before they cause disruption, damage, or harm to people.

Introducing DroneTracker 4.1, Providing Advanced Radar & PTZ Camera Integration for sUAS Detection & Threat Mitigation

Dedrone today is introducing DroneTracker 4.1, building upon the success of our foundational software platform to provide critical advances for security providers to detect and act upon drone threats. DroneTracker 4.1 delivers Dedrone customers upgraded core components that address the growing and evolving threat of unwanted or uncooperative sUAS in our airspace.

 

DroneTracker 4.1 offers eight critical updates to core platform components and new features, including:

1. ADVANCED RADAR INTEGRATION

Dedrone provides an open-systems architecture, which allows our customers to select the sensor technologies which best fit their individual needs and problem set. The core of any drone detection system starts with RF sensors, which detect drones on the basis of their radio signals.


However, drones may fly autonomously and follow a pre-programmed route, making them nearly invisible to RF sensors. Organizations such as airports and militaries have to protect larger areas, and radar systems, with their long-range detection capabilities, may be helpful. DroneTracker 4.1 provides interfaces for radar systems from selected technology partners.

2. AUTOMATIC VERIFICATION BY PTZ CAMERAS

For organizations that require visual verification of a drone, cameras may need to be added to a counter-drone technology platform. DroneTracker 4.1 features an intelligent sensor fusion technology which enables PTZ cameras to automatically verify radar detection data. DroneTracker 4.1 automatically fuses the data from different sensors, including radar, PTZ cameras, and RF, to provide a clear understanding of airspace activity.

3. NEW CLASSIFICATION OPTIONS FOR ORGANIZATIONS WITH ACTIVE SUAS PROGRAMS

As more organizations bring sUAS to work, DroneTracker 4.1 now enables security providers to focus on only those alerts that need intervention – an important step towards managing commercial drones activity. New classifications include “friend” for sUAS that are recognized or a part of an organization’s sUAS program, “foe” for any unwanted or uncooperative sUAS, and “ignore” to shut off any alerts that may not need further investigation.

4. THERMAL, INFRARED SUAS DETECTION VIA HIGH-PERFORMANCE PTZ CAMERAS

Supporting the latest advancements in radar and PTZ technology, DroneTracker 4.1 now provides accurate visual verification of sUAS in low-light environments through thermal and infrared detection. Depending on the model, PTZ cameras can visually record and track drones at distances of several kilometers, even in adverse weather conditions, so that security teams retain a maximum overview of drone activities in their airspace at all times.

5. STABILIZED DRONE TRACKING IN LIVE FEED & RECORDINGS

When PTZ cameras are integrated into DroneTracker, customers are able to view a feed of the flight. DroneTracker 4.1 features new updates to our AI-based video analysis feature, which includes an advanced and proprietary sUAS recognition algorithm.

6. PTZ CONTROL VIA SEPARATE DASHBOARD

DroneTracker 4.1 has an extra cropped view for a better overview and control of visual detection with PTZ cameras. A PTZ operator can use DroneTracker 4.1’s PTZ dashboard to connect to different cameras across a single installation, operate them intuitively and orientate themselves using a new, interactive map. In addition, users can save and mark selected images or video recordings with detected drones for post-event analysis.

7. CONTINUOUS UPGRADES TO PROPRIETARY SUAS SIGNATURE DATABASE, DRONEDNA

Detection accuracy of sensors relies on known drone signatures in DroneTracker’s proprietary database, DroneDNA. DroneDNA provides specific information on the exact type of drone, helping immensely to reduce the false-positive and false-negative detection rate. DroneTracker 4.1 comes with the most DroneDNA updates of any software upgrade, and now provides users with automated monthly updates of DroneDNA.

8. UPGRADED USER EXPERIENCE FOR COORDINATED INCIDENT RESPONSE

The re-designed and enhanced home screen improves user experience to ensure a rapid threat assessment and coordinated incident response. DroneTracker 4.1’s improved drone path accuracy during the alert enables security teams to deploy appropriate, timely, and effective countermeasures.

Since Dedrone’s establishment in 2014, security organizations around the world have seen laws about drone activity change, new technologies being introduced, and significant threats to their airspace emerge, including drone attacks at oil pipelines, correctional facilities, and continued interruptions at airports, public events, and over military installations. DroneTracker continues to provide reliable detection data, and intuitive analytics tools such as heatmaps and automated reporting, for security professionals to understand drone activity and protect critical assets.

For more information on how you can access DroneTracker 4.1, and the Dedrone counter-drone technology platform, contact us here.