November 3, 2018
Stratodynamics Aviation Inc has carried out the company’s inaugural test launch the HiDRON, a stratospheric aircraft for collecting high-altitude atmospheric data. The first flight lasted 1.5 hours and reached an altitude of 6000 m. The HiDRON’s vertical speed averaged 2 m/s down during the return flight, much slower than typical payload parachutes at 4 m/s or higher. The test program included; proving the stability of the communication commands of the primary radio link and the backup Iridium satellite system; stabilization and controllability of the aircraft after the balloon was released; testing of the balloon release systems; and monitoring the influence of icing conditions on the UAV controls.
During the flight, and with real-time monitoring of the telemetry data, the autopilot parameters were adjusted to ensure the safe execution of various flight modes. The development team designed two balloon release systems to ensure redundancy. The release system provides a controlled release of the HiDRON from the balloon at the targeted altitude, and can also be deployed to mitigate icing risk, for example when passing through cloud layers at low altitudes.
The HiDRON has a wing span of 3.4 m. The current maximum take-off weight is 4.5 kg with an integrated payload of 1 kg. Further development plans to increase the payload weight and integration with target vertical speeds of 3 – 4 m/s on the ascent and 3 m/s or lower on the descent, depending on the altitude.
Gary Pundsack, CEO Stratodynamics Aviation Inc.:
“The HiDRON is a unique balloon-launched unmanned glider for collecting in-situ high-altitude atmospheric data, and capable of autonomous and soaring flight modes. We are pleased with the flight test results and the HiDRON’s agility to return home from 12 km away and a 6 km altitude. The HiDRON provides a new dynamic method for measuring and evaluating atmospheric phenomena at various altitudes in a variety of geographical locations. Stratodynamics offers an alternative to current lift-and-drift single-use meteorological balloon campaigns which, traditionally, pose a high probability of losing equipment, as well as limitations in quality and quantity of the observed data.”