August 7, 2012

Searching the open ocean is just the sort of dull and sometimes dangerous job that seems meant for unmanned aircraft. Aerovel’s new Flexrotor, based on ship or shore, shows great promise for this role with its combination of small size, long endurance, and VTOL. However as Tad McGeer, Aerovel’s president, points out, “building a capable platform is not enough. Many operations of interest would take the aircraft over the horizon, with neither the bandwidth nor the bucks needed to keep people back home glued to video of empty ocean. Hence at least a first level of detection will have to be done onboard.”

The idea is to use Hood Technology’s nose-mounted Alticam system – including a lightweight stabilised turret and image processing engine – to scan the sea, and then automatically flag the occasional frame containing a boat, flotsam, or other “non-ocean” features. Flagged frames will be sent home via a relatively low-bandwidth link such as Iridium, where an operator can decide whether to have the aircraft stop for a closer look. McGeer says that “for a start the goal is to avoid false negatives – i.e. missed targets – while keeping the number of flagged images to a manageable handful per hour.” A first prototype of the detection software, as well as a Flexrotor equipped with Alticam, are displayed by Hood Technology at Unmanned Systems North America. “It’s a work in progress” says Hood Technology’s Andy von Flotow, “meant to stimulate thinking about applications that can become economic in a couple of year’s time”.

Hood Technology Vision, Inc. ( designs and manufactures imaging and video processing systems for aircraft, boats, land vehicles, and stationary mounts. Aerovel Corporation ( is developing the Flexrotor unmanned aircraft for introduction to service in 2013-2014, with emphasis on economy in civil applications such as offshore reconnaissance and geological survey. Both firms are based in the Columbia River Gorge in the American northwest.



Andy von Flotow
Hood Technology
541 490 1337
[email protected]
Tad McGeer
541 490 4103
[email protected]


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