Wingtra introduces high-altitude propellers, which enable unprecedented accuracy and coverage for a professional mapping drone capturing data above 2500 m (8200 ft) above mean sea level (AMSL). Customers in South America, China, Central Europe and other regions featuring high altitudes can now map high terrain at down to 1 cm (0.4 in) GSD.
Specifically, the new high-altitude propellers and supporting software allow take-off at altitudes of up to 4800 m (15,700 ft) AMSL and flight at altitudes of up to 5000 m (16,400 ft) AMSL.
“It’s a game changer for our customers to fly and gather data on terrain that has so far been challenging to reach,” said Maximilian Boosfeld, Co-founder and CEO of Wingtra.
A WingtraOne drone image from a place near Paso de Jama, Chile, featuring a member of the Wingtra testing team lying on the ground at 4300 m (14,100 ft). The image was taken from 400 m (1300 ft) meters overhead at a GSD of 5.1 cm/px.
How does altitude affect flight, and how does VTOL overcome it?
As air becomes thinner at higher altitudes, the ability for standard propellers to generate enough thrust to lift an aircraft is compromised. Their shape must change to lift through these conditions. Since it’s a VTOL drone, WingtraOne relies on this upward lift for only the take-off and landing portion of its flight. The rest of its flight time, in cruise mode, is where its advantages become obvious.
High altitudes often associated with tougher, rougher conditions and extreme challenges to performance. But in this case, the fixed-wing design of the WingtraOne enables it to fly faster while only slightly reducing the range. This is because VTOL allows it to carry heavier and higher-quality cameras, including the RX1R II payload.
Multirotors and fixed-wings at high altitudes
To understand the unique offering in the new high-altitude propellers, it helps to look at multirotor and fixed-wing drones and how they perform in these conditions.
Specifically, the limited space multirotors can cover is even further compromised by the thin air of high altitudes. Some types of multirotors may offer special propellers to handle this. But no matter what, they will use more energy in thinner air to stay in flight. In this case, customers would not only experience very short flight times and limited coverage, but also a lot of setup and processing overhead to run multiple flights for even a relatively small area like 100 ha (247 ac).
As for fixed-wing drones, the terrain at altitudes above 3000 m (9840 ft) features no grass and few, if any, large, soft areas where they can belly land. Even if there is somewhere for them to land, fixed-wings face limits on the quality of the payloads they can carry, so images may be compromised when the cruise flight speed picks up.