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SDO 50 V2 Vertical Take-Off and Landing unmanned aircraft, Source: Transport Malta on Facebook

SwissDrones conducts unmanned helicopter test flights in Malta

SwissDrones conducts unmanned helicopter test flights in Malta

The Mediterranean country aims to become a global hub for drones and advanced air mobility

SwissDrones, a global manufacturer of long-range unmanned helicopter systems, has completed a series of long-range Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) flights over the waters of the Maltese archipelago. The company tested its advanced aircraft in settings simulating maritime patrol, search and rescue, and surveillance missions. Communication and sensor payloads were also tested and validated in additional flights.

The flight operations were executed in line with European Union Safety Administration (EASA) regulations for unmanned aircraft and through close coordination with Transport Malta, Malta Communication Authority, Malta Air Traffic Services, Enterprise Malta, Indis Malta, and the San Lawrenz local council. They represent a big leap towards achieving Malta’s goal of positioning itself as a global hub for drones and advanced air mobility (AAM).

Long history of maritime aviation

This ambition rests on the country’s long history of maritime aviation and technical expertise in this area. Capitalizing on its strategic position between Europe, the Middle East and Africa, Malta built its first seaplane base at Kalafrana in 1916 and launched commercial flight operations in 1926.

“The Malta archipelago offers an ideal geographical location for flight testing in demanding maritime conditions over long distances,” said Ulrich Amberg, CEO of SwissDrones, as quoted by the Transport Malta’s website. “Additionally, the nation is a growing hub for robotics and aviation with world-class infrastructure and excellent government support, making it perfectly suitable for establishing a new base of operations.”

Charles Pace, Director General for Civil Aviation at Transport Malta, praised on his part SwissDrones’ meticulous approach to conducting flight operations, as well as the unsurpassed quality of their aircraft, expressing desire for continuing collaboration.

Where flying poses risk for human crews

The lead actor in SwissDrones’ testing and validation flights was SDO 50 V2 Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) unmanned helicopter. The system is designed for a variety of long-range missions that can be performed in otherwise risky conditions for human crews.

The chopper can fly in bad weather, at high altitude, in reduced visibility conditions during the day or night, withstanding a wide range of temperatures. An integrated autopilot system makes take-off, landing and staying on course fully autonomous.

Intermeshing twin rotor system

The aircraft boasts a unique design and high-quality sensors which enable it to carry payload of up to 45 kg, including fuel, and endure flights of over 3 hours while maintaining stable flight patterns.

Behind this is the Flettner intermeshing twin rotor system which uses rotor masts mounted at slightly varied angles to each other so that the blades can intermesh without colliding. The one-of-a-kind system also allows the helicopter to function without a tail rotor, saving on power consumption and permitting a significantly higher payload to weight ratio.

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