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NCKU Unmanned Aerial Vehicle successfully completed its maiden voyage

The Remotely Piloted Vehicle & Micro Satellite Research Laboratory (RMRL) led by Prof. Fei-Bin Hsiao from Dept. of Aeronautics and Astronautics of National Cheng Kung University (NCKU), Taiwan, built the Surveillance, Watch, Autonomous and Navigation Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (Swan UAV) that successfully completed its first test-flight circling Dunggang Township and Liuchiu Island of Pingtung County, a 16-km flight range, in 2005. After that, the Spoonbill Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (Spoonbill UAV) built in this April successfully finished its maiden voyage to fly across Taiwan Straight to Penghu with a flight range of 92 km in the morning of October 20th, 2009. Spoonbill UAV took off at 9:25 am from salt field at Cigu Township of Tainan County, over Taiwan Strait straight to Dongji Island of Penghu County, and landed back at 10:17 am to complete its maiden voyage of 92 km with an average ground speed of 100 km/h. During this test flight, Spoonbill UAV survived itself in travelling over out of radio contact.

NCKU President, Academician Michael Ming-Chiao Lai , commended the great performance of the RMRL that it is not only the success of NCKU but also the pride of Taiwan. It is also an important achievement in Asia. The technology of NCKU UAV is not only the top of Taiwan, and also the best of Asia. The RMRL was established in 1985. They insisted on the development of UAV technology to the satellite links and remote control with outstanding performance and achievement.

There exist some technological advancements from Swan UAV to Spoonbill. First of all, compared with the size of Swan UAV, Spoonbill UAV is larger and measured at 2.2 m long, 3.7 m wide, and 0.9 m high. Engine of Swan UAV is arranged in Puller Engine Configuration, while Spoonbill UAV has a Pusher Engine Configuration, in which engine exhaust would not interfere with videotaping of on-board aerial camera. Second, Swan's empennage is in a V-shape, while Spoonbill has inverted-U type of empennage that provides better aerial stability of aircraft and flight controllability. Lastly, fuel is different. Swan UAV is powered with methanol, while Spoonbill burned gasoline.

The onboard systems of the Spoonbill UAV include (1) attitude and heading reference system (AHRS) for aircraft roll, pitch and yaw angle acquisition; (2) airspeed sensor for airspeed acquisition; (3) altimeter for altitude acquisition; (4) global navigation satellite system (GNSS) receiver for aircraft navigation; (5) wireless module for wireless data link between the aircraft and the ground control station (GCS); (6) onboard aviation computer that executes the automatic flight algorithm; (7) remote control module for ground pilot manual control for takeoff/landing/emergencies; (8) onboard surveillance camera that takes aerial videos/images; and (9) video transmitter that transmit onboard video to the GCS in real time.

There are nine students from RMRL and one pilot joining this test-flight. They are Mr. Woei-Leong Chan , Mr. Chi-Seng Lee, Mr. Ying-Chih Lai, Mr. Chien-Hong Lin, Mr. Yi-Ren Ting , Mr. Chih-Hao Hu, Mr. Bo-Chang Chen, Mr. Chun-Chao Juang, Chun-Chih Chen, Mr. Yi Teng and the pilot - Mr. Bo-Fu Chen.

Prof. Hsiao commented that Unmanned Aerial Vehicle System (UAVS) included aerial vehicle and CGS with transmitting data by wireless communication. Generally speaking, UAV mostly is a vehicle without any onboard staff and with high autonomy in advanced planning or half-way changeable flight schedule. GCS staffs can radio instructions to change the flight of UAV at navigation points carrying out its mandate by GCS real-time monitoring of instruction or watching the flight vehicle dynamics of the images contained in a payload carrying real-time video.

Press release issued by National Cheng Kung University (NCKU) on October 23, 2009


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