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A flight profile is a graphical depiction that illustrates the phases of flying in a stepwise manner. Pilots and operators of aerial vehicles can monitor different aircraft motions and guide them accordingly by using different flight profiles. Power Drone organization provides unmanned aerial inspection for the power industry utilizing multi-rotor powered drones. As a result, this study provides several flight profiles for conducting aerial surveys of five poles connected by four parallel wires that decrease flight time while guaranteeing adequate coverage.
The analysis began by examining several aircraft flight profiles in order to obtain grasp on the essential flight profiles for the drones. Seven phases of the flight profile were identified namely, pre-flight, takeoff, departure, en route, descent, approach, and landing. Exploration of these phases helped provide insight on how aircrafts are controlled and how different personnel are tasked with ensuring control during the different phases of the flight profile. A significant difference noted with aircraft flight profiles compared to Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), is that control of the aircraft is a responsibility of different personnel ranging from the pilot, the air control tower, etc. while that of the drone is solely performed by the pilot. Similarly, while the aircrafts follow a single profile, drones can adopt different flight profiles as required.
Several flight profiles for the drones were identified. These included the loiter profile, in which the drone was maintained at a given altitude and speed to enable detailed surveillance of a given point; the auto profile which was important in enabling automatic surveillance by programming different missions for the drone; the circle profile, in which the drone was guided to orbit a given area; and finally, the sport profile, where through flying the drone at a given angle, the drone increased its surveillance area.
Power Drone is a company that provides unmanned aerial inspection services using multi-rotor drones for the power industry, including power lines, power poles, substations and power plants. This report explores the required flight profiles that minimize flight time while ensuring adequate coverage particularly with focus on aerial imagery of 5 poles (including cross arms) joined by 4 parallel wires when conducting aerial surveys. In order to gain an understanding on the various flight profiles required for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), the report begins by exploring the flight profiles that aircrafts follow. It then provides a description of the required drone flight profiles that meet the requirements of minimum flight time and adequate coverage.
Aircraft flight profiles
Flannigan (2009) describes a flight profile as a graphical step by step flight phase that ranges from simplistic graphics to complex graphics that include power settings, target speeds and at times, verbal callouts. He also adds that such profiles are fundamental to pilots, corporate operators and charters as they highly depend on them in their daily flight routines. Freudenrich (2017) points out that seven flight phases make up an aircraft flight profile, namely, pre-flight, takeoff, departure, en-route, descent, approach, and landing. Further, he also notes that as the aircraft navigates through the various phases, control of the aircraft is transferred across different personnel who are tasked with guiding the aircraft through its journey from one destination to another.
The first phase of the flight profile is pre-flight. As Freudenrich notes, this phase is particularly concerned with performing all relevant checks whilst the plane is on the ground. Various personnel are responsible for ensuring that the aircraft is in a suitable condition for flying. Among them are the pilots, flight data personnel and the ground controllers who are tasked with different responsibilities. The ground controller issues clearance for the aircraft to take off. The second phase involves the plane taking off by effectively speeding off the runway. During the third departure phase, the local controller hands control to the departure controller tasked with overseeing that the plane has taken off and is cruising at a given altitude. The fourth phase is under control of different air traffic controllers and involves the aircraft moving through one or more centre airspaces as it arrives its destination. The fifth phase which involves descent, involves the pilot descending the aircraft to its destination while the sixth approach phase involves the pilot aligning the plane with the designated runway. Finally, the plane lands on the designated runway.
Unmanned Aerial Vehicles Flight Profiles
Ozan (2015) highlights that the flight profile of an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) consists of five key phases namely, take-off, cruise or high speed dash, loiter, return cruise and landing. He notes that as the UAV (drone) navigates through the different phases, only the drone controller maintains control of the device unlike with the aircraft where control is transferred between different personnel as the aircraft goes through different phases. The figure below demonstrates the flight profile of a UAV device.
Figure 1: Unmanned Aerial Device flight profile
Given that Power Drone is focused on minimizing flight time, one of the key flight profiles that requires attention is the take-off profile. This profile is similar to an aircraft’s pre-flight phase where checks are performed to ensure the drone is in a suitable position to fly. LaFay (2017) highlights several aspects are important to consider in this phase, in order to ensure a minimum time is achieved when the drone is taking off. First, the drone should be placed on a level surface that allows easy takeoff and landing. This is easily achieved by placing the drone on the Launchpad that ships with the drone. Further, the drone should be setup in an open location to ensure that hindrances such as obstacles do not interfere with its take-off procedure.
Thirdly, to ensure that sufficient time is availed to enable the drone to undertake its function, the battery should be checked to ensure it is charged fully. As well, the drone should be calibrated to eliminate confusion with the controls as well as establishing the home location through setting up the GPS lock. Power Drone benefits from setting up the GPS lock as this ensures the possibility to configure auto-return mode with the drones where the drones return to a given pre-determined location after surveillance. Thus, two key significant measures that help minimize flight time during the flight take-off profile are ensuring the drone is well calibrated, has a fully charged battery, and setting up the GPS lock to ensure the drones are able to return to their home location after surveillance has been completed.
The second important profile is the cruise or high speed dash where the drone picks up speed after verifying aerial stability. With this profile, the drone steadily increases its speed and altitude to a position that enables the controller achieve maximum coverage. Since Power Drone is primarily interested in unmanned aerial inspection services for the power industry, an appropriate flight height and flight path which comprises of the end lap and side lap has to be pre-determined in order to ensure that surveillance is efficient and provides appropriate images and videos. A challenge that arises in determining this flight height and flight path with Power Drone is that the surveillance of the power plants involves surveying poles that are several meters high. As such, the drone has to rise to a considerably high height where such survey is possible. As well, there is concern to ensure the drone is not under the influence of electromagnetic interference arising from the power plant. Thus with the cruise profile, concern is to ensure that an appropriate height is attained where the drone attains aerial stability and as well, is able to carry out adequate aerial surveillance.
The third significant profile that enables maximum coverage during the aerial survey is the loiter flight profile. In this profile, the pilot maintains the current location, altitude and heading of the drone with specific focus being to ensure that detailed survey of an area is undertaken. With the power plant survey, loiter mode enables detailed surveillance of a particular area of interest that may be appropriate where videos and photographs can be taken to ensure an attainment of the desired outcome. Care has to be taken in order to ensure that the drone does not suffer the influence of electromagnetic interference arising from the power plant as the drone remains in a sedentary position.
A fourth profile that both minimizes flight time and increases coverage is the auto mode where the drone follows a pre-programmed mission script that is stored in its autopilot mode. During this mode, commands for navigation guide the drone without affecting its location and its capability to trigger the camera. The figure below illustrates the auto mode.
Figure 2: Auto mode flight profile for the drone
Such a mode is important in that it enables the drone to circle through the entire survey area while capturing details without the requirement of the pilot. As such, more surveillance can be done with appropriate determination of the entire power plant area and determination of the flight paths and required number of laps to be made by each drone. Further, as more drones get deployed, they can be stationed at different locations within the plant such as the north, south, west and east thereby enabling more detailed surveillance of the entire plant.
A fifth profile to increase coverage area is the circle profile. With this profile, the pilot guides the drone to orbit a given circular region when particular concern is to survey a given section of the plant, for instance one of the poles. While the loiter profile only ensures surveillance of only one dimension of a given point since the drone maintains the given altitude, the circle profile enables the pilot to view all dimensions of a given point since the drone orbits it.
Finally, the pilot may be interested in undertaking surveillance of the power plant while maintaining a given angle to determine various important aspects. With this in mind, the sport flight profile is activated for the drone. With this profile, the vehicle is set to a given angle for instance 45 degrees, and surveillance undertaken at this angle.
In order to gain comprehension on the various flight profiles that are employed by Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) such as drones, the paper began by exploring the various flight profiles deployed by aircrafts. Seven phases of the flight profile were explored namely the pre-flight, takeoff, departure, en route, descent, approach and landing phases. With this understanding, various flight profiles for the UAVs were explored. This included the take-off profile during which checks for suitability in flying were performed; the high speed dash, which was significant in enabling the drone attain directional and aerial stability; the loiter profile, in which the drone was maintained at a given altitude and speed to enable detailed surveillance of a given point; the auto profile which was important in enabling automatic surveillance by programming different missions for the drone; the circle profile, in which the drone was guided to orbit a given area; and finally, the sport profile, where through flying the drone at a given angle, the drone increased its surveillance area. In conclusion, the different profiles explored have been significant in enabling an understanding of the given topic.
Flannigan, P. (2009). What is a Flight Profile?. AviationChatter | Professional skills for private pilots. Retrieved 2 September 2017, from http://www.aviationchatter.com/2009/02/what-is-a-flight-profile/
Lafay, M. (2017). How to Launch Your Drone - dummies. dummies. Retrieved 2 September 2017, from http://www.dummies.com/consumer-electronics/drones/how-to-launch-your-drone/
Freudenrich, C. (2017). How Air Traffic Control Works. Retrieved 2 September 2017, from http://science.howstuffworks.com/transport/flight/modern/air-traffic-control1.htm
Appendix 1: Outline of the Report
Summary of main points
Approach for the given topic
Airline flight profiles
Overview of definition of the term flight profile
Understanding the aircraft flight profile
Drone flight profiles
Appendix I & II
Appendix 2: Report Request
What is the external organisation’s name?
What does the external organisation do?
Provide unmanned aerial inspection services using multi-rotor drones for the power industry, including power lines, power poles, sub-stations and power plants.
What is the topic or question they would like investigated?
What are the required flight profiles that minimise flight time but ensure adequate coverage (i.e aerial imagery) of 5 poles (including cross arms) joined by 4 parallel wires when conducting an aerial survey.
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