As our Drone Nest development moves forward we had the chance to tell IHS Janes about our milestones and where we plan on taking this technology.

Estonia’s Eli Airborne Solutions expects to start field testing of its Drone Nest later this year, with a goal of having a production-ready system in early 2018, Jane’s has learned.

Mikk Sarapik, Eli’s sales manager, told Jane’s that trials with the Estonian Border Guard are scheduled to commence in the October timeframe.

The Drone Nest concept aims to provide a forward-deployed base station for the company’s ELIX-XL multirotor unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), whereby air vehicles could be stowed on standby for deployment when required and use the Drone Nest to swap batteries.

As currently configured, the system takes the form of a drum with a concave circular landing pad, under which is fitted the battery exchange element. When not in use, the Drone Nest landing pad and air vehicle are covered by a lid.

Work on the Drone Nest began in 2015, Sarapik said, and Eli envisages a network of the systems able to provide overlapping cover of an area and act as a force multiplier, with the ability to cycle aircraft on and off station to provide continuous coverage. The UAVs stowed within could be activated via direct command from an operator or automatically launched to conduct a mission when cued by an external sensor, such as a motion detector, the aircraft could be programmed to automatically fly to the ‘trigger’ location and interrogate a target or conduct a pre-determined flight profile.

Rather than acting as a recharging point for the battery on-board the UAV, the Drone Nest features a mechanical battery swap mechanism instead, as a recharge function would not support rapid redeployment of the air vehicle, Sarapik explained. However, batteries not in use could be recharged at the Drone Nest.

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