Advanced Aircraft Company (AAC), a developer of long-endurance, hybrid-electric unmanned aircraft systems designed for a wide range of commercial, defence and public safety applications, has been named one of seven finalists in the NIST First Responder UAS Endurance Challenge, which was sponsored by the US Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).
Team AAC from Advanced Aircraft Company placed first in the competition, taking home a cash prize of $100,000. Additionally, the company won three Best-in-Class Awards for Endurance, Innovation and First Responders Choice, totalling its winnings at $135,000.
‘The AAC team is thrilled to have participated in the First Responder UAS Endurance Challenge,’ said Bill Fredericks, Founder and CEO of Advanced Aircraft Company. ‘Taking first place and winning three best-in-class awards affirms our high-performance and long-endurance systems suitability for first responder operations.’
In the four-stage challenge, participants designed, built and flew an unmanned aircraft system (UAS) to fly for the longest time possible while carrying a 10lb payload. This challenge evaluated design trade-offs of UAS capabilities, such as vertical take-off and landing (VTOL), payload capacity and energy source, with the goal of optimizing and improving flight time. This research area is important for emergency responders in order to accomplish their mission more efficiently and effectively to maximize the flight time for a known payload. Contestants were encouraged to collaborate with their local first responder community and other experts in public safety to ensure the relevancy and applicability of their proposed UAS solution.
‘Our grant programmes and prize challenges help us make great leaps forward in solving public safety concerns by initiating collaboration with industry, academia and the public safety community,’ said Dereck Orr, chief of NIST’s Public Safety Communications Research (PSCR) division, which managed the challenge. ‘The challenge has helped advance our mission and UAS technology with the winning team surpassing 112 minutes of flight time for FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) Part 107 drone flights, which are systems weighing less than 55 pounds flown by certified drone pilots.’
One of the barriers for the public safety community is having access to a UAS that can fly for long periods of time, 90 minutes or greater, while carrying a heavy payload. For example, in a typical search-and-rescue mission, emergency responders may be dispatched to a location where broadband LTE communications are unavailable. To maintain communications, a UAS may be deployed with an LTE system to extend coverage to an area that is remote from where the UAS initially launched. PSCR is exploring ways to optimize UAS for increased flight endurance while making UAS more efficient and flexible for use by public safety.
The challenge began in April 2019 and culminated with a final, virtual flight demonstration in June 2021. Competitors in this competition faced personal and technical challenges as a result of the global pandemic, prompting NIST to modify the schedule and, due to travel restrictions internationally, change the final event from an in-person, live competition to a virtual flight demonstration.
NIST’s PSCR Program drives innovation and advances public safety communication technologies through cutting-edge research and development. PSCR works directly with first responders and the solver community to address public safety’s urgent need to access the same broadband communications and state-of-the-art technologies that consumers on commercial networks now expect. Learn more about the PSCR First Responder UAS Endurance Challenge and upcoming competitions on the NIST PSCR website.
Additional details on AAC’s win can be found here