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DraganFly's logo. Click here to visit the DraganFly website! DraganFly unveils latest UAV design
(Thursday, August 13, 2009 - 13:46 EDT)

Canadian radio-controlled aircraft manufacturer DraganFly Innovations Inc. has announced a new addition to its lineup of unmanned aerial vehicles, the DraganFlyer X4.

Founded in 1998, DraganFly has offered quite a range of blimps, helicopters, planes and tracked vehicles capable of carrying digital camera payloads over the last decade. DraganFly's products span a range from basic, affordable designs aimed at consumer / hobby use, all the way to extremely sophisticated designs for professional applications. Aimed at the latter market, the DraganFlyer X4 is a more affordable variant of the company's DraganFlyer X6 model - the current flagship product which was announced last year.

As the name would suggest, the DraganFlyer X4 replaces the X6's six rotors with a simpler design featuring four rotors. This reduces the payload from 18 to 8.8 ounces, still enough for the X4 to carry one of four different cameras. For standard still and video photography, a Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX580 digital camera can be mounted on the X4's anti-vibration camera mount to capture twelve megapixel photos and high-def 720p video. Alternatively, three other camera payloads are offered - a Watec WAT-902H2 Ultimate for low-light mono video, a FLIR Photon TAU for thermal infrared video, or a tiny 92-gram 0.36 megapixel micro analog camera for standard-definition video. Flight times obviously vary depending on the payload weight and flight conditions.

The DraganFlyer X4 includes some pretty impressive capabilities, thanks to a built-in GPS receiver, barometric pressure sensor, and an array of accelerometers and gyros. A position hold switch on the remote allows the craft to remain roughly stationary in wind speeds of up to six miles per hour, while altitude can be adjusted in the hold mode with an ascent/descent toggle. The remote with OLED touchscreen display communicates with the DraganFlyer X4 via a 2.4GHz data link, while video is transferred over a 5.8GHz link and can be viewed using video glasses connected to the remote or an optional base station. The design includes day/night visible color-coded navigation lights, and there's even a "black box" data recorder which stores information on link quality, altitude, speed, orientation and direction to a 1GB MicroSD card. For reliability and ease of maintenance, the X4's design uses one direct-drive brushless motor per rotor, and the helicopter can be folded for compact storage. The rotor blades and removable landing gear are crafted from carbon fiber, while the body of the X4 combines carbon fiber with glass-filled injected nylon and aluminum / stainless steel fasteners. Power for the DraganFlyer X4's various circuits comes from a 14.8V 2,000 mAh Lithium Polymer rechargeable battery.

Alongside the X4, DraganFly has announced the DraganFlyer E4, which shares the same overall design, but is intended for educational projects and has an open communications API. Both the X4 and E4 models should ship in Fall 2009. For 2010, DraganFly's site offers a teaser for the eight-rotor (!) DraganFlyer X8, said to offer greater payload capability to support use with professional cameras and lenses. Pricing for DraganFly's professional UAVs is available on request only.

Original Source Press Release:

Announcing the Draganflyer X4 Helicopter: a Brand New, Ultra Portable, VTOL UAV for Commercial, Law Enforcement, and Military Applications

The DraganFlyer X4 umanned aerial vehicle. Photo provided by DraganFly Innovations Inc.

The DraganFlyer X4 umanned aerial vehicle.
Photo provided by DraganFly Innovations Inc.

We are pleased to announce the release of our latest UAV helicopter, the Draganflyer X4. Several hundred hours of development went into its design, bringing about the sleek, sophisticated UAV. The Draganflyer X4 features much of the same technology as the Draganflyer X6, but can be purchased at a fraction of the cost. Designed for commercial, government, and military applications, the Draganflyer X4 provides affordable aerial photographs and video surveillance.

Diverging from our larger 6 rotor design, the Draganflyer X4 features the same quad rotor design used by our older helicopters. Four brushless motors independently drive four carbon fiber rotor blades, all controlled by an advanced flight computer.

The flight computer uses SteadyFlight technology to process the inputs of seven individual sensors, including:

  • A barometric pressure sensor

  • Three accelerometers

  • Three gyroscopes

The flight computer reads sensor outputs and precisely determines the motor outputs required to keep the helicopter flying straight and level. If selected by the pilot, the barometric pressure sensor is used by the helicopter to maintain altitude. Properly trimmed and balanced, the helicopter will hold its position in the air allowing you to get excellent aerial photographs and video.

Four different cameras have been customized to work with our UAV, including:

  • A 12.1 MP digital still and video camera

  • A micro color video camera

  • low-light black and white video camera

  • A FLIR (Forward Looking Infra Red) video camera

All of these cameras transmit wireless video via a 5.8 GHz transmitter built into the mount. Wireless video can be received using either the handheld controller (which includes its own flat patch video antenna) or the optional base station. Video glasses plug directly into the handheld transmitter, allowing you to see what the helicopter is seeing and get perfectly aimed aerial photographs and video. The optional base station is compatible with any modern PC running Windows and features three standard RCA output jacks. This allows you to use your own recording equipment with the cameras or even re-transmit the video stream if needed.

Because all wireless communication is subject to interference, all of our cameras now feature a built-in DVR that records a pristine, interference-free copy of your aerial video to an SD card. After you finish flying, plug the SD card into your computer and edit the video using the software of your choice. Each camera also features a custom designed mount with a remote tilt feature. Designed to give you the best quality video possible, each camera mount features balanced, oil-filled shock absorbers. The shock absorbers keep the recorded video free from vibration, guaranteeing that you get the best possible results.

The Draganflyer X4 features an innovative case system that makes transporting the helicopter easier than ever. The entire Draganflyer X4 helicopter presses neatly into its pre-cut slot in the case. Each part and accessory fits into molded high-density foam inserts for safekeeping during transport. The transport case features a dual layer design with flight accessories in the top layer and the base station in the bottom layer. A patented, load-bearing system clips on to the transport case allowing it to be worn like a backpack. Made from flexible Cordura™ nylon, the load-bearing system is securely attached using Fastex™ hardware and adjustable straps.

The entire transport case fits neatly into an ATA (Airline Transport Association) certified hard case, rated to last over 100 flights as airline baggage. The padlockable, all-metal, carpet-lined ATA case allows you to safely transport the helicopter anywhere in the world without worrying about damage caused by the rigors of airline travel.

Designed for small enterprises and projects on a budget, the Draganflyer X4 is our most affordable UAV ever. Use the power of a full featured UAV helicopter for your project – the Draganflyer X4 makes professional quality aerial photographs and video easier to obtain than ever before.

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