HiDRON Stratospheric Glider UAS Reaches New 30km Height
Press Release – August 28, 2019
The HiDRON softly lands in a field of clover after a 4 hour controlled descent
Stratodynamics and UAVOS are excited to announce their pioneering flight of the HiDRON stratospheric glider. The HiDRON successfully reached a new altitude of 30 km (98,450 feet) breaking their previous 25km record. The flight demonstrated the team’s capability to perform beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) operations with a UAV from high altitudes.
The August 2nd night flight was the first of two flights commissioned to test a new mini-EUSO (Extreme Universe Science Observation) AMON Airglow detector from Stratodynamics client, the Slovak Academy of Sciences Institute of Experimental Physics.
This international collaboration is the culmination of 7 months of planning between Stratodynamics, and lead physicists, Pavol Bobik, Simon Mackovjak, and UAV pioneer, UAVOS. The Slovakian team was searching for a cost effective method to allow the AMON Airglow detector to have a clear view of the zenith and the nadir while unencumbered by a weather balloon. The AMON is planned to be an ancillary instrument for EUSO-SPB2 mission that will fly on a long duration NASA balloon in 2022.
The HiDRON offered the perfect solution for the campaign as it’s programmable flight path back enabling an unobstructed view upwards from the stratosphere, and returned the valuable instrument to the launch location
All went according to plan with the UAVOS ground crew in the early hours of Thursday August 2nd as the HiDRON was lifted by balloon to the 30km target altitude and released in -60° C (-76° F) stratospheric winds. Despite the harsh environment, the HiDRON performed well with the real time data transmitting to the ground station during the 4 hour controlled descent.
In addition to the AMON detector, Stratodynamics and UAVOS used the flight opportunity to test and advance aspects of the HiDRON design including stratospheric flight dynamics, data links, and UAVOS’ Micro Version AP10.3 auto-pilot.
STRATODYNAMICS acknowledges funding contributions from LookNORTH to demonstrate BVLOS technology for unmanned systems.
A second AMON Airglow flight is scheduled for August 31 from the Canadian Space Agency’s STRATOS Balloon Base in Timmins, Ontario. This time the glider will be released from the Canadian Space Agency’s (CSA) scientific gondola at an altitude of 35 km, a new milestone for the HiDRON. This campaign represents a first in North America for a stratospheric glider releasing from a scientific gondola. The data collected during Timmins flight in 2019 will be used for comparison with the results from EUSO-Balloon mission that operated in the same region in 2014.
Gary Pundsack, CEO Stratodynamics Aviation Inc.:
“We are extremely pleased with the performance and outcome of this recent 30 km milestone. Stratodynamics has proven to be a valuable partner with the Slovak Academy’s investigations into nighttime airglow. Our unique method of collecting high-quality large datasets from hard to reach locations offers clients new, cost effective access to stratospheric altitudes. We look forward to the follow up launch with our collaborators at the Canadian Space Agency.”
Dr. Pavol Bobik, Director of the Institute of Experimental Physics, Slovak Academy of Science:
“We appreciate flexibility, excellent customer support, professionalism
and willingness of Stratodynamics during our campaign”.
UAVOS Board Member and CEO Aliaksei Stratsilatau:
“HiDRON is a real solution to advancing the important research around climate change and other atmospheric chemistry problems. The HiDRON provides solutions to tough problems that affect all of humankind, which is why it is such a capable and necessary platform for researchers.”
UAVOS Inc., a globally operating company with its offices in Hong Kong, the USA and Europe, has recently raised a round of financing from a group of private investors to further advance its R&D efforts, reduce the go-to-market time for new solutions and also focus on promotion and commercialization. UAVOS works directly with a number of large customers in different market segments. Among UAVOS’ advanced ready-for-commercialization unmanned technologies are unique High Altitude Pseudo-Satellite (HAPS) ApusDuo and a multiplatform autopilot solution for converting manned vehicles of all types into unmanned, and unmanned aerial vehicles aimed to counteract systems of electronic warfare
Background on AMON Airglow Detection
The upper atmosphere of the Earth is continuously ionized by solar radiation with short wavelengths, solar energetic particles and cosmic rays. These processes can lead to production of faint light that is commonly known as airglow. The airglow can be effectively observed by ground-based detectors during the night time while the direct sunlight is absent. The variation of airglow intensity in dependency to geographical position, time, solar cycle, geomagnetic activity and changes in the Earth’s atmosphere is detected but still not well understood. Furthermore, night sky diffused light with contribution of starlight and zodiacal light affects background detections of Extensive Air Shower (EAS) events. The estimation of absolute intensity of this background is essential for evaluation of EAS energy of events with low statistics i.e. events produced by interactions of Ultra-High Energy Cosmic Rays (UHECR) in Earth’s atmosphere.
The AMON detector was tested during several observation campaigns on Lomnicky peak Observatory (Slovakia), on El Roque de Los Muchachos Observatory La Palma (Spain) and on Observatorio Astronomico Nacional de San Pedro Martir, Baja California (Mexico) during years 2015 -2018. The collaboration with Stratodynamics is a first for testing this new AMON design in an operational environment.