AEOLUS' Successful First Seagoing Trials
[Cork, September 22nd 2017]
A very significant milestone in the AEOLUS project was achieved earlier this week with the first ever seagoing trials of the project's innovative maritime monitoring and surveillance platform. The trials took place off the south coast of Ireland from the Irish Naval Service flag ship L.E. Eithne (P31). The trials were many months in the planning and required a coordinated and sustained effort from a wide range of agencies and organisations including the AEOLUS technical partners of HALPIN & Nimbus at CIT and the Marine & Mobile Robotics Centre at UL, Cork Institute of Technology Finance and Administration teams, the Irish Aviation Authority, Cork Air Traffic Control, Naval Operations Command, Naval Service Headquarters and the officers & crew of L.E. Eithne. The trials were made possible through the financial support provided to the project by Enterprise Ireland and the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland.
The weather conditions were near perfect for the trials with a light to moderate southwest wind and seas of about 1.5 metres. The preparations and sail-out went smoothly and the first launch and low level test flights were uneventful. Low level flights were used to test and verify the correct operation of the numerous AEOLUS sub-systems including power, platform-ship communications, detection sensors, onboard system diagnostics and the ship ground station. There followed higher altitude flights where the AOELUS monitoring and surveillance platform was flown to an altitude of 150 metres (600 feet) above sea level, the highest level the platform has been flown and tested at to date. During these higher level flight tests, the wind picked up significantly reaching 25kts (46kph) at times. Much to the satisfaction of the AEOLUS test team and the crew of L.E. Eithne, the platform behaved as predicted remaining stable with all onboard systems continuing to perform normally throughout.
During AEOLUS system development and for these first tests, a hybrid helium baloon / kite system (a helikite) has been used. The AOELUS platform is however designed to be lifting platform agnostic i.e. it can be elevated as a payload on e.g. manned or unmanned air vehicles (UAV). Additional AEOLUS lifting platforms are currently under development. The successful trials represent a significant but by no means final step for AEOLUS; version 4 of the platform is already in design (version 3.5 flew in the trials) and more test flights are planned with v4 for Q1 2018 by which time the platform will be nearing readiness for testing with end users around the World. Cormac Gebruers, Technical Project Manager said of the successful trials "The AEOLUS project and these first seagoing flights could not have taken place without the unstinting and continued logistical and knowledge support of the Irish Naval Service, support we gratefully acknowledge and thank them for. The trials would not have been possible either without the availability of a stable, seagoing naval vessel with a large, unobstructed, flexible and configurable open deck working area. As maritime researchers and innovators, we are fortunate to have such a crucial seagoing asset available to us." For more inforamation on the AEOLUS project, please see the project page on this site.