Aerial Vehicle Automation
San Antonio, Texas, USA
Aerial Vehicle Automation was founded by David Gonzales II, CEO and Kyle Johnson in April 2016. The company has raised $500,000.00 USD in investments and commitments from a former Chief Sales Officer from the internet services provider, Yahoo! Inc.
Before Gonzales and Johnson started their company, they were building small drones and flying them which led to discussions of the possibility of scaling them up to larger aircraft to see if larger electric drone-like aircraft could do aviation related jobs just as well and at a much less expensive rate. They started with a core technology demonstrator which was used to validate the electronics, flight control and the ability to make a scaled-up multi-rotor aircraft with a 400 lbs (181 kg) payload, then made a test flight program and had success with this program.
Currently, the company is building a large autonomous uncrewed electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft called the X8 which can carry up to 200 lbs (91 kg) of cargo. The X8 is all-electric with a 1,500 lb (680 kg) maximum thrust, a maximum flight time of 30 minutes in the air, cruising speed of 60 mph (97 km/h) and a range of 30 miles (48 km), with a full payload. The range and time in the air will differentiate depending upon the weight of the cargo and it’s mission. The aircraft cargo bay is the fuselage which has a side door and a nose door for loading and off-loading cargo. The software and avionics is located inside the fuselage.
The company foresees their eVTOL multicopter to be used for an almost as many types of missions as commercial businesses, governments and the military can find a use for. For example, cargo could be used for business or residential delivery service, to carry cargo to oil rigs or remote or urban construction sites. And because of its heavy payload ability, the eVTOL can also hold high-end heavy movie cameras which are typically flown by helicopters. Using this eVTOL for filming would greatly reducing the cost of aerial filming for TV or movies, will help to keep the cost of filming on budget and also reducing the possibility of crews being killed due to unforeseen helicopter accidents flying in unfamiliar locations for movie filming. In addition, the aircraft could be used for such diverse missions as crop dusting and search and rescue operations.
The company makes everything for the aircraft, from the propulsion system, to hardware and software, making their own battery packs, speed controllers and having propellers made to their specifications. The company says their X8 eVTOL multicopter is 10 times less expensive to own and operate than a helicopter. Or 10X and 10X. Ten (10) times reduction costs in building the aircraft and ten (10) times less expensive per hour, to operate.
The aircraft can be piloted either autonomously or can be piloted remotely. There are patents pending on the vehicle architecture. The company states their aircraft can be scaled up to a larger size if specified by its customers. A static test stand is used to physically test the properties of propellers, rpm levels and to record other data, to make ensure the accuracy of the test data.
The company is focusing on keeping the aircraft as simple as possible and have a plan on more efficient ways to manufacture the aircraft, to keep manufacturing costs down. Using a clean sheet design will allow this process of low manufacturing and operating costs, to successfully happen.
For example, instead of using folding landing gear with wheels, the use of stationary landing skids will keep costs low for production and for the end user. The fuselage is made of carbon fiber and aluminium, the landing skids are aluminum and other parts are manufactured using 3-D printing. Using a combination of various components, the company estimates this aircraft can be ramped-up quickly for mass production. There are patents pending on the vehicle architecture.
Safety features include redundancy. The aircraft can have 1 to 2 propellers stop and still have complete control of the aircraft. There is more redundancy in the aircraft such as multiple flight controllers and back-up systems. Customers can also purchase the option for a parachute.
The company has also made an upgraded X8 aircraft, named the Winged X8, which provides a longer range. The company plans to manufacture and sell their aircraft to the end user and will not be in the business of operating their own aircraft for other companies.
- Aircraft Type: eVTOL cargo aircraft
- Passengers: 0
- Piloting: Autonomous or by remote
- Cruise speed: 60 mph (97 km/h)
- Flight time: 30 minutes (with full load)
- Range: 30 miles (48 km) (with full load)
- Peak thrust: 1,500 lbs (680 kg)
- Payload maximum weight: 200 lbs (91 kg)
- Propellers: 8
- Electric motors: 8
- Fuselage: Composite aluminum
- Cargo doors: 2
- Landing gear: Skid type
- Safety features: 1 to 2 motors can stop without loss of aircraft control. Parachute can be purchased for additional safety.
Aerial Vehicle Automation website
Article: San Antonio startup building autonomous helicopter raises funding, San Antonio Business Journal, Nov. 14, 2017