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Phoenix LiDAR and JOUAV VTOL take on Romanian winter

The unmanned LiDAR revolution is heard around the world with the whirring of the VTOL propellers spinning into action in the cold winter Romanian landscape. The JOUAV CW-20 VTOL unmanned system has the capabilities to bridge the gap from micro-mapping missions to full scale aerial mapping campaigns. This includes everything from powerline mapping, to nationwide elevation mapping campaigns. Like it or not, the VTOL is here to stay and will open the frontiers of large unmanned mapping missions. This is the story of our journey into the Romanian countryside with the JOUAV CW-20 VTOL equipped with the Phoenix LiDAR Scout-Velodyne ultra-puck LiDAR system.

It was a cold, windy morning in early January and I am on a mission to deliver a VTOL drone system to the Romanian mapping and geospatial group in the capital city of Bucharest. The system is the JOUAV fixed wing vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) system, the CW-20 equipped with a Phoenix LiDAR Scout Velodyne Ultra Puck. I worked for the past few months to build this integration with Phoenix and the new Ultra puck from Velodyne. For those reading this and don't know what I am talking about, the beauty of this system is in the combination of a 2.5 hr flight time VTOL drone and a laser scanning system that has a 200 m range on a package that weight only 55 lbs. We are talking about 55 lbs of mapping beast mode! The one drawback is still the 200 meter (656 ft) range on the laser, which is a little close to the ground for comfort for the 10 1/2 ft wingspan drone. Nevertheless, the system is ready for theater, and I have a team to train.

The training is a 6 day bootcamp where we cover the basics of the equipment, then an in depth overview of the ground control software, mission planning, emergency procedures and 3 days of practical in the field training. By the end of this bootcamp your team is prepared to take on the responsibility of caring for your VTOL system and conducting operations on your own.

The classroom training went smoothly and we were embarking on our first flight day. This is where the system really starts to shine. It was cold, really cold, and there was windswept snow lightly dusting the airfield. We were faced with two challenges. First, the cold was below zero, which is a challenge for LiPo batteries. Our solution to overcoming this problem was to keep the LiPo batteries on the floorboard of the car with the heater on. This kept the batteries toasty until we were ready for take-off. Another simple solution is to use hot hand chemical warmers and stick it on the batteries. This is still a best practice for the batteries in flight. The last thing anyone wants to happen is to lose voltage on the flight controller battery and have an emergency landing. The second issue was related to our location. Our flight zone was on an active airport with helicopter and fixed wing aircraft training. This would require us to stay vigilant and monitor the air traffic and adjust flight plan during the course of the flight. This is really the best way to train a new pilot. Put them in a stressful situation and force an emergency change in flight plan. Only then, when you feel the power to control the autopilot during flight, then you feel the comfort to quickly adapt to any situation.

We were able to overcome every obstacle and operate the fixed wing VTOL LiDAR drone in Romania. 🇷🇴 We are proud to extend this technology into the Eastern Europe and expand the reach of unmanned LiDAR data to any projects in the globe. Through our network of operators and equipment we can meet the requirements of any job, large or small.

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