UAVOS, in conjunction with Stratodynamics, has successfully performed a series of stratospheric flights with its autonomous HiDRON unmanned glider. Supported by the NASA Flight Opportunities Program, the flights tested turbulence detection sensors developed by the University of Kentucky (UKY) and NASA’s Langley Research Center, in order to advance new forward sensing turbulence detection technologies for aircraft at near-space and commercial flight altitudes.
The HiDRON UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) was launched from a balloon at an altitude of 82,000 ft. (25 km) for the first two launches, and at 98,000 ft. (30 km) for the final launch, gliding successfully at 92,000 ft (28 km). The HiDRON was released from the balloon in zero-gravity conditions and accelerated rapidly, approaching 300 mph ground speed (480 kph) in the first 15 seconds of flight. The HiDRON then glided in a controlled flight path back toward Spaceport America’s runway for approximately 4.5 hours while recording flight and payload data.
The UAVOS-designed avionics system demonstrated stable performance in extreme temperatures from -85°F (-65°C) to +95°F (+30 °C), as well as a breakthrough in autonomous control during the critical ‘pull-out phase’ following balloon release. The system ensures safe Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) flight profiles throughout the various phases of lift-off, ascent and landing.
During the mission, the aircraft’s autopilot took measurements and recorded navigation data on a flight recorder with a frequency of up to 400 Hz. Onboard sensors (including acceleration sensors, angular velocity sensors, GNSS, magnetometer, air data sensors, and temperature sensors) allowed it to record wind velocity, direction, magnitude, and low-frequency sound waves. High-altitude aerodynamics data has proven invaluable for processing payload data as well as for analyzing atmospheric phenomena in the stratosphere.