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Old Jul 27, 2014, 10:58 PM
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Project Elpis - Disaster Relief

Project Elpis is a proposed autonomous and unmanned aerial vehicle capable of flight at a minimum altitude of 25,000 feet ASL that is intended to provide assistance to authorities in Search and Rescue efforts as well as natural disaster relief.

General Goals. The goal of this project is to provide uninterrupted assistance to authorities after natural disasters while maintaining a balance between cost efficiency and durability. This is a community project, part of a community effort to assist in disaster relief--not a commercial project; that's why this thread is being made in a public forum. The intended use of Elpis is currently to be used in conjunction with the Civil Air Patrol's disaster relief efforts (CAP has no affiliation with the project).

Altitude Goal. The altitude goal should be explained as to not confuse anyone on the forums. The minimum altitude set at FL250 was determined to be the optimal minimum operational ceiling standard for Search and Rescue operations in the proximity of mountains or other high elevation terrain. This will allow Elpis to find hikers and campers in need of assistance in mountainous areas as well as easily locate higher elevation forest fires. Another factor to consider is that ground level can easily exceed 12,000 feet ASL in high elevation areas (Rocky Mountains, etc), and the ability to maneuver a safe altitude above this type of terrain is crucial due to updrafts/downdrafts.

Features. Elpis is intended to have a few unique features. Upon locating a person requiring immediate assistance, using high resolution thermal imaging, Elpis will transmit its location to the operator; it will also use a laser GIS/GPS rangefinder which will account for distance, slope, height, etc to give an accurate location of the person in need. This information will then immediately be passed on to local authorities. It also has an intended payload of 3kg, which can be used to drop light supplies (such as first aid/dehydrated food). Some features are to be determined, such as a long distance video stream, the use of a generator to keep its batteries alive, and the use of a backup autopilot system to automatically find a suitable landing position (advanced*). Elpis will have a carbon fiber body as well as all solid state and shock resistant equipment. Another feature intended further down the road is its little sister, a high speed aircraft called Phoebe (explained further below) which can be used in conjunction with Elpis to provide speedy transportation of important first aid equipment and food/water to last until medical personnel arrive. Phoebe would utilize Elpis's laser GIS/GPS rangefinder to find a suitable position (with the help of its operator of course) to drop off supplies. This kind of aid would have proven useful in a situation such as Hurricane Katrina, where Phoebe could have assisted those in need by hauling care packages with around 10kg of food materials from many miles away several times back and forth throughout the day.

Requirements and Research. There are some basic requirements and intentions. The requirements will be rather challenging, but once accomplished, it will bring further knowledge to the field of low-cost UAVs for the use of medical support and Search and Rescue. We expect that the research done involving this aircraft will bring easier access and further understanding to what's listed below.

Outline of basic project requirements:
  • Must be fully autonomous with GCS
  • 3kg Payload
  • Capable of 18 hours of continuous flight at ~FL100
  • Must be cost efficient

The research done with this project is expected to yield the following:
  • Practical/efficient use of UAVs in disaster relief efforts
  • Long range, low-latency, low cost camera stream (TBD*)
  • Continuous battery charge using onboard generator(s)
  • Automatic backup AP2 landing system, in case of AP1 failure, dedicated battery
  • Backup servo system, dedicated battery

Extra material:

Phoebe Explained. In a disaster relief mission, this craft can be used in conjunction with a proposed high speed craft named Phoebe capable of STOL/VTOL and an extremely low VS1.

Note that the craft is purely for research and scientific use, and will likely never be used up to FL250. The aircraft will never be operated outside of Class G airspace without proper clearance, and should the aircraft's flight plan ever be even remotely questionable, proper clearance will be requested from the FAA prior to flight. All further regulations issued by the US/State Government will be followed. Any regulations in place against anything suggested in this post will be followed as well. This model is currently concept.
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