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WingtraOne high-altitude propellers: fly up to 5000 m (16,400 ft) and still map large areas at high accuracy

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.

Yet there are a couple of key advantages that we’d say are unique: with our Sony RX1R II payload at these high altitudes, the GSD WingtraOne achieves isn’t compromised, and in some cases you can actually capture data faster.

Maximilian Boosfeld

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.

While WingtraOne is priced as an inclusive bundle—with payload, software, base station and everything you need out of the box—these propellers are sold separately according to specific needs. Please contact sales directly to get a quote.

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.

Screenshot of WingtraPilot with the high-altitude propellers/normal propellers
WingtraPilot enables easy identification of which propeller is which. Both propellers can be used between 2000 and 2500 m (6500 and 8200 ft), yet a safety feature in the updated software now prohibits WingtraOne's flight without high-altitude propellers above 2500 m (8200 ft).

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.

The faster cruise mode needed at high altitudes barely touches this camera’s ability to trigger and maintain a good overlap, which means GSDs down to 1 cm (0.4 in) are now possible, even at the highest altitude of the drone’s range.

“Down here, I can run a flight and it takes me 25 minutes to cover 200 ha (490 ac) at 3 cm (1.2 in) GSD,” Boosfeld said. “Up around 4000 m (13,000 ft), you can still cover that same 200 ha (490 ac) in less time—20 minutes. So it’s safe to say that if you don’t have a project more than 200 ha (490 ac), you’re actually flying and acquiring data up to 20 percent faster.”

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).

WingtraOne next to a high mountain sign
WingtraOne is now the only professional mapping drone that can reach and map these heights efficiently and at a high accuracy. Note: while this picture features an elevation of 4818 m (15,800 ft), it’s a testing sight and the published limit for WingtraOne take-off is 4800 m (15,700 ft).

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.

Mapping high altitudes at a high accuracy has never been so easy

High altitude WingtraOne mapping output
Details from mapping images and resulting Pix4D-generated point cloud near San Pedro de Atacama, Chile, at 4740 m (15,500 ft) AMSL, taken by WingtraOne flying at 4900 m (16,000 ft) AMSL with its Sony RX1R II payload and a GSD of 2.2 cm (0.9 in)/px.
The new propellers are available for sale now as an accessory to any WingtraOne and are easy to distinguish by a ring system (see picture above in story). A software update released in tandem with their first shipping date this month provides guidance and a safety feature. I.e., any flight planned above 2500 m (8200 ft) will not take off unless the high-altitude propellers are attached. Normal WingtraOne propellers can then be replaced when flying below 2500 m (8200 ft) as they enhance efficiency in lower altitudes. Flight times and battery state of charge will be monitored by new, sophisticated algorithms that also account for altitude. For more details and to get exact WingtraOne pricing information for your region, contact our sales team.
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Wingtra

Wingtra develops, produces and commercializes high precision VTOL drones that collect survey-grade aerial data.

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