South African aviation innovation company, Sentian Aerospace, has won the overall winner and small, micro and medium enterprises (SMME) winner accolades at the fifth annual AVI Awards 2019 held at the eighth AVI Afrique Summit for its unmanned aerial vehicle project.
AVI Awards 2019 was hosted by Air Traffic and Navigation Services SOC Limited (ATNS) at the Canvas Innovation Hub in Fourways, Gauteng. The award recognises individuals who elevate the aviation industry through intelligent design of products and processes, contribute to innovation and enhance the capabilities of the aviation industry.
“Our awards winner truly impressed us with their innovative and unique aviation concepts which speaks volumes of the sheer talent we have and also bodes well for future innovation and development,” said Thomas Kgokolo, interim CEO of ATNS.
Johannesburg-based Sentian Aerospace won their award for the design of their unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that can carry a payload up to 15 kg for over 1 400 kilometres. The Sentian Aerospace UAV is a vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft with a fixed wing.
In speaking on the UAV’s VTOL and fixed wing capabilities, CEO of Sentian Aerospace, Muzi Dube stated, “This eliminates the need for runways and heavy, complex launch equipment. Furthermore, the hovering ability allows for stationary surveillance of infrastructure such as stockpiles, power lines and pipelines.”
The aircraft is designed to take off, hover and land using its four battery-powered motors. After takeoff, the UAV transitions into fixed wing flying, propelled by its main engine. This hybrid system saves on battery consumption allowing for long distance and endurance missions while carrying payloads.
Main engine propulsion gives a cruising speed of 120 km/h and a maximum speed of 280 km/h. The aircraft has a wingspan of six metres, length of 3.2 metres and a height of 1.4 metres.
In its fixed wing mode with a full payload of fuel, the aircraft has 12 hours of flight time while its battery powered rotor mode provides two hours of flight time. If controlled by satellite link the aircraft has a range of 1 400 km and controlled by radio data link the range is 200 km.
“The idea behind our design was reduce the cost of aerial transport. A typical helicopter can cost in excess of R10 000 an hour and we’d like to cut it down to about R2 000 an hour. We believe Sentian Aerospace is uniquely positioned as we can in the future also offer services and products that can save lives such as delivering critical medical supplies to rural hospitals”, Muzi stated.
The AVI Awards High School winner was awarded to Samuel Nkgoeng from N.M.Tsuene High School in Ga-Rankuwa, Gauteng. Nkgoeng won his award for his unique concept of lowering a wind turbine in an aircraft in order to power small electrical items.