Unmanned aviation is a bit of a wild frontier for aerospace, with companies popping up and disappearing faster than celebrities on reality TV. So I checked out a new name that made its debut at Shepard's UV Europe conference in Wales last week - Aesir. Turns out Aesir has acquired the assets of VTOL UAV developer GFS Projects, which folded at the end of last year after failing to raise more money. GFS started out as Geoff's Flying Saucers - and for good reason, as Geoff Hatton originally designed the disc-shaped vehicle, which uses the Coanda effect for lift.
Video and pictures: Aesir
With a new investor supporting development, Peterborough, UK-based Aesir plans to develop a family of UAVs from the original GFS design. Its initial step is the Embler demonstrator, a new version of the GFS design with a lighter carbonfiber airframe and improved electric motor giving about 10 minutes endurance.
Embler demonstrator, flying...
...and on Northrop Grumman Remotec's Wheelbarrow UGV
This is intended to lead to the Vidar, a 300mm-diameter battery-powered UAV with a 15min endurance carrying a 100g payload and designed to fly inside buildings and in confined spaces.
Vidar, early prototype
Next up is to be the Odin, a 1m-diameter UAV powered by a rotary internal-combustion engine and able to carry a 10kg payload for up to an hour, Aesir says it plans to fly a 1.5m-diameter demonstrator later this year to prove the basic design is scalable to different sizes and powerplants.
The third member of the family, the Hoder, is still at the concept stage, but is planned to be a multi-engined heavy-lift UAV capable of carrying a 1-tonne payload and intended primarily for cargo transport.
Hoder, concept mockup
A couple of things to note. First, a word of caution: Aesir's single shareholder is funding all development work, and the mortality rate among UAV start-ups is high. Second, the concept seems to work: as you can see from the video, the prototype is remarkably stable.
Aesir says the design is more efficient and stable than a ducted-fan UAV because it sits atop a cone, rather than a column, of air. Also the entire underside of the curved canopy is available for installation of the payload, as the air from the central fan flows over the outside.
The company has made some improvements to the original GFS design. The flap-like control surfaces seen on the demonstrator in the video have been replaced by moving "fishtails" in the fan duct. These stop the vehicle rotating and provide flight control.
Final note: what's with the names? Seems the Aesir was a group of Norse gods: not surprisingly it included Odin, Hoder and Vidar...