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No Human But with Humanity:UAV

By Vincent Wang
Published: Mar 05,2014

Figure I: Not only the Amazon, UPS also plans to use UAV
Figure I: Not only the Amazon, UPS also plans to use UAV

Mobile devices have changed our life since the late 1990s, UAV is probably will change our life in the near future.

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What is UVA? According to a research and analysis organization RAND, UAV is “an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) is an aircraft that carries no human pilot or passengers. UAVs — sometimes called "drones" — can be fully or partially autonomous but are more often controlled remotely by a human pilot. RAND research has contributed to the public discussion on the use of drones for warfare and surveillance.”

We human beings cannot fly on our own, but we haven't stopped dreaming of flying. However, flying model craft and stories of manned flight go back many centuries, the first manned ascent – and safe descent – in modern times took place by hot-air balloon in the 18th century. Each of the two World Wars led to great technical advances.

Consequently the history of aircraft can be divided into five eras: pioneers of flight, from the earliest experiments to 1914, first World War, 1914 to 1918, aviation between the World Wars, 1918 to 1939, second World War, 1939 to 1945, postwar era, also called the jet age, 1945 to the present day.

UAV Demand Driven by Business Applications

Figure II: UAV market forecast
Figure II: UAV market forecast

The origin of UAV has no exception to military usage. The idea of a pilotless aircraft, is not a new concept at all, the history dates back to the mid-1800s, when Austrians sent off unmanned, bomb-filled balloons as a way to attack Venice. The drone we see today started innovation in the early 1900s, and was originally used for target practice to train military personnel.

Amazon has put UAV into the spotlight lately. “”We're excited to share Prime Air — something the team has been working on in our next generation R&D lab. The goal of this new delivery system is to get packages into customers' hands in 30 minutes or less using unmanned aerial vehicles. Putting Prime Air into commercial use will take some number of years as we advance the technology and wait for the necessary FAA rules and regulations.” based on Amazon.

“Prime Air is still under negotiating between FAA and Amazon, I think that sooner or later it will be put into practice, however, the detailed rules are remained to be seen,” said Lai Wei-hsiang, Director of APPRC of National Cheng Kung University (NCKU).

Figure III: UAV market segments
Figure III: UAV market segments

“UAV can be worked in everywhere! The related law and regulations are not clear so far. One of which is the aviation safety that means how to protect the aviation of UAV doesn't cause bad consequences to others.”

“The privacy and public safety also needed to take into account,” Director Lai added.

He states that the UAVs that NCKU has invented are in very good quality. In 2009, the deseased Professor Xiao Fei-bin operated a UAV to fly a round-trip between Taiwan and Penghu, which proves its durability and excellency.

“Since then I made a lot of improvements of the UAV power system, and included among them are usage of green energy battery, copy the design of jet.” said Director Lai.

Taiwan’s well-established supply chains for specialty materials and components

“Taiwan does have a lot of subsystem components but lack of integration, which includes the access to air space and our government doesn't put UAV as our priority in research.”

Figure IV: UAV Supply Chain Overview
Figure IV: UAV Supply Chain Overview

However, to some degree, Taiwan’s well-established supply chains for specialty materials and components are helpful to shorten the time to market as soon as if UAV were legalized.

The Taiwanese UAV companies’ current pool of customers is comprised solely of civilian government agencies and research institutions. But they hope for an eventual liberalization of regulations to clear air space for commercial-use UAVs, which would likely increase demand substantially.

Carbon-Based Technology Inc., located in Taichung’s Central Taiwan Science Park, promotes its UAVs and related services under the brand name Uaver. Geosat and Avix Technology Inc. are famous Taiwan's UAV firms, as well.

Technical Specifications are Still Very Different

UAV is controlled either autonomously by onboard computers or by the remote control of a pilot on the ground or in another vehicle. Whereas Uaver products of Carbon-Based Tech. are all battery-powered, Tainan-based Geosat Informatics and Technology Co. uses gasoline engines for its fixed-wing UAV, the “Sky Arrow 55” and “Sky Arrow 100,” while also employing battery-powered rotorcraft.

Figure V: Sky Arrow 55
Figure V: Sky Arrow 55

The advantage of gasoline power is much greater endurance (between 3.5 and four hours) and flight distance (400 kilometers), with the theoretical drawback that a crash could cause a fire according to earlier report.

Last but not least, at the biennial Taipei Aerospace and Defense Technology Exhibition (TADTE) maybe has the solution, and the next TADTE will be held in 2015.

Judging from last year's TADTE, Taiwan-made products that most caught the eye of visitors were the UAVs displayed by the Taiwan military-run Chung-Shan Institute of Science and Technology (CSIST), three private local manufacturers, and a handful of Taiwanese university teams. Exhibited were fixed-wing and rotor UAVs, as well as various UAV-related services.

Will UAV change our life as well as the mobile devices? Surely it has a long way to go.

Figure VI: Drone-RK is an open-source real-time distributed UAV platform.
Figure VI: Drone-RK is an open-source real-time distributed UAV platform.

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