Unique South African UAV jumps into flight


South Africa’s Passerine Aircraft Corporation is developing a unique unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that jumps into the air, eliminating the need for a runway, launch rail or any other takeoff assistance device.

For takeoff, the UAV jumps into the air on specially designed robotic legs, and for landing, enters a stall and then lands on the legs, much like birds do.

Passerine Aircraft Corporation’s founder Matthew Whalley told defenceWeb this is a first in the world.

The Johannesburg-based company took part in a startup accelerator project in the United States and has gotten support from America for development, which started seven months ago. To date, test flights have been carried out with conventional undercarriage. A production-ready prototype should be completed in about six months’ time.

Apart from its undercarriage, the Passerine UAV is also unusual in that it is powered by two electrically driven ducted fans mounted above the wings, which are quieter and more rugged than conventional propellers. They should also give an impressive top speed of up to 200 km/h. Whalley said Passerine was pushing the upper limits of UAV speed for electrically powered aircraft of this scale. Endurance will be about an hour.

Payload is 2 kg, mounted in an easily interchangeable payload pod. This can include sensors or cargo.

Whalley said there has been plenty of interest for the unusual UAV. Passerine says its vision “is to revolutionise the commercial drone industry by providing aircraft which are capable of real world ranges and payloads without requiring ground infrastructure. We envision a future where drone is associated with small jumping aircraft, as well as short range multi-rotors.”

Passerine envisages a range of UAVs, including the Sparrow ‘bush plane’ UAV designed for surveying or parcel delivery, and with conventional undercarriage. The Jumper is designed to operate from anywhere thanks to its unique landing and takeoff configuration.