Commercial security and surveillance drones are an important sector for the UAV industry. For heavy industry like mining, energy, and agriculture, long-range drones carrying sophisticated payloads have proven to be valuable assets – saving time, lowering costs, and improving outcomes. South African-based ALTI has been at the forefront of the commercial sector with their fleet of endurance VTOL aircraft: now, they introduce the ALTI Ascend, their smallest aircraft yet.
The ALTI Ascend, VTOL Hybrid
“The ALTI Ascend is our smallest aircraft option. We have been developing and improving this system for over a year now,” says Ian Share, ALTI’s Chief Sales Officer. With a wingspan of only 2 meters – about 6 1/2 feet – the Ascend can be easily transported by a single operator – but still offers an impressive flight endurance of 4-6 hours.
Ascend is battery powered for vertical take off and landing (VTOL) and gas powered for forward flight. “Our composite carbon fiber airframes are designed to maximize endurance by having the most efficient aerofoil design for any aircraft of it size and class,” says Share. “The airframe is designed with an integrated fuel tank, dihedral, washout winglets, VTOL pods, dual elevator control surfaces, navigation and landing lights, quick lock tool-less wing latch, and connectors to offer the best possible aerodynamic efficiency.”
Efficient Manufacturing in South Africa
“We do a lot of the manufacturing ourselves,” says Share. “The composite airframes are manufactured in Johannesburg, and then sent here to the office in the Western Cape.” That makes for an efficient and resilient manufacturing system, which allows each aircraft to be built to customer specifications for their unique mission.
The Ascend has been built to support a wide range of payloads which are integrated with superficially designed anti-vibration mechanisms plates to minimize the vibration on the optic sensors mechanically but is ideally suited for demanding long-range security & surveillance drone applications.
“While making sure the payload solutions are fit for data capturing, we also make sure the aircraft is ready for any further customization down the road,” says Share. “We future-proof the integrations we do for simple and easy upgrades and swap out of payloads for different application types.”
ALTI is also able to provide their airframes or propulsion systems as an OEM product to custom drone manufacturers.
An Off-Grid, Secure Solution
ALTI aircraft utilize the ArduPilot and ArduPlane opensource software, and ALTI works closely with those developers.
The system functions completely off the grid, making it ideal for industry which may be in remote areas or security conscious: there is no Internet connection required. “You don’t even need a connection to plan flights – which has the additional benefit of securing that information,” explains Share. The point to point system shares data between the aircraft and the ground control station as long as there is an unobstructed “line of sight” (you don’t actually need to see the aircraft.)
“Flight performance is our highest priority,” says Share. “We are constantly testing and requesting data from our clients in order to improve our software and firmware as we grow our products and team – this is what keeps our products current and competitive in this industry.”
Surveillance and Security Drone Applications, from Mining to Conservation
“We focus heavily on surveillance and security applications,” says Share. “That’s why we build our aircraft for maximum endurance – you can cover quite a distance within your operational range.” With an average 70-75 kph set speed (about 45 mph), an operator can cover between 300-350 km (about 186 – 217 miles) in a single flight.
That makes the solution ideal for customers like mining sites, who must keep constant surveillance over large areas for illegal mining activity; or for pipeline workers who must monitor a route. “The most effective way to solve this type of problem is a runway independent aircraft that can launch or land anywhere – and give clients a birds-eye view of what’s happening without risk to their operators,” says Share.
In Misool, a conglomerate of small islands in a protected marine area, ALTI aircraft have proven to be a compelling solution for conservationists trying to prevent illegal fishing and poaching in the area. “Previously, conservationists were doing surveillance by boat,” Share explains. “But poachers simply got out of the water as the patrol boats came around.” The airborne solution has proven to be far more effective, while also safer for conservationists.
ALTI is also a proven tool for search and rescue applications. In Indonesia, officials use surveillance and security drones as spotters in order to identify potential problems. Greater use of surveillance tools allow for more lives saved. The drones are far less expensive than helicopter surveillance: and they keep pilots out of danger.
With extremely minimal support and upkeep costs, ALTI Ascend is competitively priced against comparable solutions at about $65,000 USD fully equipped. “ALTI has no hidden costs, our software and firmware is opensource and will forever be available free of charge,” says Share. “Our support structure is included in the pricing of every purchase, and we will support our products as long as required by our end-users.”
Miriam McNabb is the Editor-in-Chief of DRONELIFE and CEO of JobForDrones, a professional drone services marketplace, and a fascinated observer of the emerging drone industry and the regulatory environment for drones. Miriam has penned over 3,000 articles focused on the commercial drone space and is an international speaker and recognized figure in the industry. Miriam has a degree from the University of Chicago and over 20 years of experience in high tech sales and marketing for new technologies.
For drone industry consulting or writing, Email Miriam.