About this project
Missed it on Kickstarter?
SkyProwler is a pro-grade transformer UAV for fast and efficient winged cruise and vertical take-off and landing. Upgrades include cargo delivery and drop capabilities and a 4K camera. If you missed it on Kickstarter then please visit Krossblade.
Awesome Performance, Great Value
SkyProwler is a Professional-Grade High-Performance Multi-Mission Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) Transformer UAV/Drone. It takes off like a multicopter, picks up speed using its high-powered thrusters, and then transitions to cruise flight on its high-speed wings. The multirotor take-off mechanism folds away in-flight giving SkyProwler super efficient aerodynamics and hence speed, endurance and range far better than pure copters and on-par with pure airplanes.
But that is not all. Some missions require maximum hover time and tight turns in addition to great bursts of speed. Think of filming a car approaching a stopping point, and then going off again, think of filming pets and other animals running around, think of sports! No problem! Reconfigure SkyProwler without tools, by taking the wings off and changing the tail, or fly without tail, and what was the winged SkyProwler "Blade" configuration, becomes the wingless "Hornet" configuration. Hornet is a multi-copter so fast and agile that you can do things with it you can do with no other multicopter.
Paired with an optional ground station radio that gives you not 2 but 4 channels per stick, Eye, the world's first aerial action cam with 3D integrated gimbal stabilization (igs) and video quality from 1080p30 up to an optional 4K30 upgrade, an enormously generous cargo compartment that can be also be used to carry additional battery power, and you have a package so powerful, other aerial vehicles will get scared - except perhaps the F-22 Raptor. For even more functionality new upgrades are available, you can find them further down on this page, just below the reward packages graphic. The Eye Cam ProX upgrade allows for flexible optics, NIR and daylight vision in both wide and narrow angle. The automatic cargo drop door module can replace the bottom plate of the cargo compartment and allows for the drop of cargo in mid-flight.
SkyProwler is controlled by very powerful 32 bit flight control hardware (based on the Pixhawk project) and made from materials found in full-sized aircraft, such as composites, carbon fiber, 7075-T6 aircraft aluminum and titanium. Flight control and ground control software allow for missions from fully manual all the way up to fully autonomous flight and even the changing of autonomous missions while already flying.
Please note that all on-board video material shot in the campaign video has been shot with the 2D stabilized version of the Eye Cam. The Kickstarter rewards will ship with the 3D stabilized Eye Cam.
Thank you for supporting SkyProwler!
A case-study how the SkyProwler cargo drop door module could be used in a professional setting, e.g. for certain simple but urgent medical emergencies:
1. Unparalleled flight performance
Just like common multirotor drones SkyProwler can take off and land from virtually anywhere. After transition to forward flight the multirotor take-off mechanism folds away in-flight (patent-pending switchblade transformation) transforming SkyProwler into a slick aircraft with super efficient aerodynamics and hence speed endurance and range far better than pure copters and on-par with pure airplanes. SkyProwler can fly around twice as long as multicopoters, on the same battery charge. SkyProwler is also much faster than multicopters. Longer duration and higher speed multiply into far longer range.
2. Multi-mission adaptability
You can fly SkyProwler as a high-speed VTOL airplane (the Blade), ideal for long range, high-speed and long duration flights, or as a pure multicopter with thrusters (the Hornet), ideal for missions with maximum hover time, tight turns, and lots of acceleration and stop and go. You can make the reconfiguration in the field without tools, just take the wings off and change the tail.
3. Eyecam™ with integrated gimbal stabilization (igs)
The Eyecam has been designed to maintain aerodynamic profile of SkyProwler. Its round shape and position at the front of the aircraft mean that wherever you point it at, your aircraft is just as aerodynamically efficient as before. There is no interference of the propellers, they are neither directly visible, nor do they throw chopped shadows onto the camera when they intersect the sunlight from above. Eye comes in two editions, the ProAm 1080p30igs capable of shooting 1080 HD video at 30 frames per second and the optional upgrade Pro 4K30igs which can shoot ultra-high definition 4K video at 30 frames per second. They can beam video data down to you while at the same time recording it on their on-board micro-SD card. Check out the technical specifications further down on this page for more information on the capabilities of either camera. Please note that all on-board video material shot in the main video and this video has been shot with the 2D stabilized version of the Eye Cam. The Kickstarter rewards will ship with the 3D stabilized Eye Cam.
4. Spacious cargo compartment
SkyProwler can carry around 500g/1.1lb of payload and has a cargo compartment that can carry items as large as a soda can. You can use it to transport and deliver cargo, additional electronics and sensor packages, or, additional battery power for longer flight times.
5. Equipped for autonomous missions
SkyProwler is controlled by powerful 32 bit hardware based on the PixHawk project. It is fully compatible with highly developed open-source flight control firmware. It also allows for full ground-based mission planning and fully autonomous missions via the ground control software (based on the open source Mission Planner software), including the flying along GPS waypoints, the snapping of images at certain GPS coordinates, mapping and surveys, geo-fencing and GPS auto-follow.
6. Safety features
SkyProwler's flight controller is programmed with a host of safety features that help pilots avoid trouble. The most important is the auto-return to home function. Press a panic button on the radio ground station, fly SkyProwler out of range or get low on battery and SkyProwler rises up to 100m/300ft (default values can be changed) to avoid obstacles on the way back home, and then flies home.
A sonar system embedded into the movable Eye Cam gives SkyProwler excellent all-round awareness of its surroundings, especially during take-off and landings. This helps SkyProwler to avoid collisions, which is especially important when taking off from and landing in tight spots. The range of the sonar is up to around 10 meters.
Vertical Take-Off and LandingVertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) enables aircraft to operate from virtually any environment. No runway is required. This opens up flying to a much larger range of possible terrains, from backyards and rough fields, over snow-covered mountains and sandy beaches, to a boat on the sea.
The problem with traditional VTOL machines such as helicopters and more recently multirotors is that they are slow and inefficient. This is because such machines always have to actively work to stay in the air, in addition to pushing themselves forward. The energy it takes to spin the rotors that keeps rotorcraft in the air DOES NOT generate any forward motion, additional energy has to be expended to get a rotorcraft to move forward. In a winged airplane on the other hand, the energy expended to move the wings through the air to generate lift, at the same time DOES also generate forward motion. Also, large rotors standing in the oncoming wind of a moving aircraft are very detrimental to aerodynamics and hence speed, endurance and range. In summary, winged aircraft can typically fly twice as fast as rotorcraft, stay in the air twice as long and have a range that can reach 4 times that of rotorcraft on the same amount of fuel/energy. Winged air travel can be just as energy efficient as travel by car, but it is up to 8 times faster!
Combining VTOL and winged flight is a fairly obvious theoretical idea. However, in order for this to make sense, the resulting vehicle must offer the best of both rotor-powered VTOL and winged flight, not a compromise. This is where the switchblade transformation mechanism comes in.
Switchblade Transformation Mechanism
The patent-pending switchblade transformation mechanism transforms SkyProwler from a multirotor craft with big, slowly moving rotors, excellent at VTOL and hover, into a pure, sleek and aerodynamic airplane excellent at fast and efficient cruise flight.
How does this compare to other VTOL mechanisms? You can find a more detailed discussion here: http://www.krossblade.com/disc-loading-and-hover-efficiency/
Briefly: The most well known VTOL mechanism for winged aircraft is the tiltrotor mechanism by which the propellers of an aircraft are tilted from vertical for take-off and landing, to horizontal for cruise flight. The issue with this is the following: VTOL works best with big rotors, in fact the larger the rotor, the less power it takes to lift a weight. Tiltrotor airplane propellers are typically larger than 'normal' propellers, but they are much smaller than those of say a pure VTOL craft, such as a helicopter. What this means is that tiltrotors can typically only lift 4 to 5 lbs (around 2kg) per horse power, while craft with more rotor area, can lift 10 to 12 lbs (around 5kg) per hp. This means bigger (and heavier) engines, more noise, faster down wash (down wash is the wind that blows in your face when for example a helicopter takes off). In cruise flight on the other hand, small propellers/rotors are best, because they offer the oncoming air less area to drag on. In effect, small fast spinning propellers are like 6th gear on a car - a lot of speed, but low torque. Big, slowly spinning rotors are like 1st gear on a car, little speed, but lots of torque. A tilt-rotor by analogy is hence not dissimilar from a car always driving in third gear. It works, but it burns more gas, is not as fast, and gets going more slowly.
For a more in-depth discussion of how different propellers/rotors suit different purposes please click here: http://www.krossblade.com/different-rotors-for-different-purposes/ The other existing mechanism employed for VTOL is called thrust-vectoring, and is used on jet aircraft such as the Harrier and the F-35. These aircraft are strictly built for awesome speed. As a side effect of that their engines are so powerful that it is possible to direct their jet thrust downwards in order to push the aircraft straight up for a vertical take-off. The problem: the effective lift area of the small nozzles and fans that direct the jet thrust is very small. Using the car analogy, these aircraft take-off in 6th gear. And so because of this all the 20,000 hp (or so) are needed to lift 40,000 lbs of aircraft straight up. The resulting noise is ear-deafening, it literally burns a ton of jet fuel, down-wash velocities reach 350 mph (550kph) and the down wash can be so hot that it can melt the concrete off the air strip from which they take off
To summarize the car analogy employed for different VTOL craft:
- Helicopters and multicopters always fly in '1st gear'
- Tiltrotors always fly in '3rd gear'
- Thrustvector systems always fly in '6th gear'
- SkyProwler (switchblade transformation mechanism) takes off and lands in '1st gear' and cruises in '6th gear'
- "Sending a drone out to recon an active wildland fire is highly preferably to sending out one of a very few volunteers to do the same task, when we've got to put a fire out before it gets away from us and endangers everyone in the area." - JA
- " I use my various UAS platforms for shooting stills and video that gets used by ACE and the parks. Aerial footage in Disneyland of the Matterhorn ride" - AH
- "I am working in agricultural mapping, so this uav seems to be perfect to this task since this UAV can do vertical take off and can cover vast range of area." - FO
- "I may be interested in this concept for use in emergency response, especially in the field of search and rescue, and post-disaster scene survey. " - CJ
- " I'm a shark biologist who's interested in seeing if a product like the SkyProwler could be used as an early warning system to detect sharks at beaches. " - W
- Winged cruise speed (Blade config): ~65mph/105kph (- ~10% with additional battery)
- Cruise speed (Hornet config): ~35mph/56kph (- ~15% with additional battery)
- Winged Cruise (Blade) Range: ~43 miles/69 km (+ ~40% with additional battery)
- Hornet Range: ~14 miles/22km (+ ~30% extra with additional battery)
- Max Ascent: ~4m/s Blade, ~6m/s Hornet
- Endurance: Blade ~40 min, Hornet ~24 min, (+ ~40 to 50% with additional battery)
- Payload: ~550g/19.5oz (Blade), ~450g/16oz (Hornet)
- Weather limit Blade: Wind resistance ~15mph/24kph crosswind during VTOL, otherwise ~30mph/48kph; light rain
- Weather limit Hornet: Wind resistance ~22mph/35kph; light rain
- Service ceiling: ~5,000m/16,500ft (Blade cruise flight); ~4,500m/14,800ft (Hornet)
- Temperature range: ~-15ºC/5ºF to 50 ºC/122ºF; make sure to check battery condition, especially in cold weather
- VTOL power systems: 4x130W, 1,500rpm per input Volt
- Thruster power systems: 2 x 180W, 3,000rpm per input Volt
- Servos: digital, metal-geared, with bearings
- Battery: 3 cells, 5,000 mAh
- VTOL propellers: 9 inch
- Thruster propellers: 5 inch
- Materials: Composites, carbon fiber, 7075-T6 aircraft aluminum
- Wingspan: 35.5inches/900mm
- Length of fuselage without tail and nose cone: 21inch/550mm
Control and Interfacing
- Ground station radio frequency: 2.4 Ghz (FCC and CE compliant)
- Ground station radio based on FrSky technology
- Video down-link: 5.8 GHz (FCC and CE compliant)
- Telemetry radio frequency: 433 Mhz or 915 Mhz
- Ground station radio and video antennas: Directional
- Flight controller CPU: 32 bit, 168 Mhz, 256 KB RAM, Pixhawk based
- Flight controller compatible with provided receiver as well as third party receivers such as Futaba (SBus), Spektrum or FrSky (SBus)
- USB interface on flight controller and ground station radio
- Ground control software with GPS waypoints, GPS follow, autonomous missions, flight logging
- Ground control software is based upon the open source Mission Planner software and will be available for download to all backers
- Ground control software can be used to program SkyProwler for autonomous missions independent of the radio ground station, it typically runs on a laptop and can connect to SkyProwler via a cable or in the air, via the telemetry radio
- Ground control software enables Geo-fencing, Mapping, Surveys, GPS waypoints including transitions from cruise flight to hover and back, GPS follow, Automatic photography, Autonomous flight, etc.
- CMOS Imaging Chip: 12 Megapixel
- SD card: ProAm 1080p30 - class 10, upgrade to Pro 4K30 - SanDisk Extreme Plus or equivalent
- Camera trigger: via radio ground station or via on board buttons
- Camera orientation (roll, pitch, yaw): via radio ground station; Pitch control: +/- 90 degrees, Roll: +/- 45 degrees; Yaw: +/- 30 degrees
- ProAm video: 1080p HD at 30 frames per second (fps) and 720p at 60 fps
- Upgrade Pro and ProX video: 4K UHD at 30 fps, 1080p HD at 60 fps and 720p at 120fps
- ProAm and Pro photo: 12 mega pixels
- Brushless Motors for integrated gimbal stabilization (igs): 12N14P micromotors
- IGS is controlled by a 3-axis micro gimbal controller
- Lens mount: M12
- Eye Cam ProX allows for rapid lens and filter exchange allowing for in-field reconfiguration of the Eye Cam Pro (4K) for wide angle or zoomed (~ 2x zoomed) field of view with either a daylight filter or an NIR filter; more filters available upon request; advantage of separate filter and lens are vastly reduced costs because filters are cheaper than lenses
Press Mention of Krossblade
- Homeland Security Today
- Popular Mechanics
- 3D Print
Risks and challenges
SkyProwler has been developed and tested for two years and most of the kinks have been ironed out.
The components we use are fairly readily available and even interchangeable, meaning should a component, like a certain electric motor, become suddenly unavailable during production or after shipping then it can be fairly easily replaced with a number of similar options. We aim to provide cost effective replacement options, but you will also have other options if you so chose. Future maintenance should hence be cost-effective and simple.
SkyProwlers cargo hold and fuselage compartments allow for future upgrades enabling you to keep your aircraft up to date for years to come.
We have organized our production into 3 phases:
1) Airframe manufacturing
2) Partial integration
3) Final integration and assembly
Each phase requires a parts order. This also means however that we are preserving resources for longer than if we ordered everything up front. This gives a safety buffer for us and our backers.
During production and after shipment we aim to further develop our flight control and ground control software and to make these upgrades available to our backers in the future. This means that your SkyProwler has the potential to become even better after you have received it and are already using it.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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