Three drone prototypes developed by the research team headed by Professor Shan Xiaowen, head of the Department of Mechanics and Aerospace Engineering at the Southern University of Science and Technology (SUSTech), are on display at the 12th China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition, or Airshow China, that opened to the public Tuesday.
The drones, named Heron, will be used for logistics and transportation.
The Heron UAV has two authorized core patents. One is a propeller-mounted vertical take-off and landing fixed-wing aircraft and the other is a pneumatic vertical take-off and landing aircraft.
The two authorized core patents ensure the superior performance of Heron in vertical take-offs and landings, with large loads and over long ranges in terms of the overall layout and flight control logic.
“Unlike most of the drones on the market, the key characteristics of Heron include backward installed propellers, control surfaces behind the propellers and electric motor driven propellers. This design allows the UAV to take off and land vertically. The UAV can achieve various flight states, including hovering and cruising, by adjusting the different flight surfaces,” Professor Shan was quoted by the Southern Metropolis Daily as saying.
Through the advanced layout and aerodynamic optimization, the drone aims to increase the life span and range of the traditional drones by a magnitude of 5 to 10.
Professor Shan is not only a scientist, but also an entrepreneur. In 2009, Shan was elected a member of American Physical Society. In 2012, Shan worked as a specially invited expert for Commercial Aircraft Corp. of China and founded the Mechanics and Aerospace Engineering Department of SUSTech in 2015, before turning his focus to the UAV project in July 2017.
“Heron’s propeller is mainly used to overcome the resisting force. In flight, it uses the aerodynamic theory of a fixed wing, which could optimize the maximum speed to 162 kilometers per hour, or 45 meters per second, five times the speed of traditional drones. It can carry 10 kilograms to any area within 100 kilometers in a radius within one hour of Shenzhen International Airport,” Shan said while introducing drones to visitors to his exhibition booth at Airshow China.
Shan and his team are planning to spend six months to one year on further improving the performance and reducing the production costs before they put it into mass production.
According to Shan, many enterprises have expressed their intent to cooperate with the drone team, and designs are expected to be put into production in 2019.
Domestic express delivery has grown at a rate of more than 50 percent over the past five years. The industry’s current rate of growth indicates that more than 40 billion packages were delivered by express delivery firms in 2017, and the smart logistics industry is worth more than 200 billion yuan (US$28.96 billion).
The industry is expected to surpass 1 trillion yuan by 2025. The “Heron” drone project is based on the country’s developmental needs and will provide significant support in building a technologically strong country and a smart society, according to Shan.