The Spartaqs company invites to read the article: ‘Dronoid and other aviation innovations by Spartaqs’ published in the January issue of the magazine ‘LOTNICTWO Aviation International’ 01/2018.
The article contains, inter alia, information about the company’s history, how the Dronoids project was created, and information on the concept and operation of the anti-drone shield system – DRONET ADPS.
An electronic version of the article can be found on the website of the Military Research and Analysis Team – ZBiAM under the link: See magazine 01/2018
The magazine is also available for sale in the EMPIK network bookstores.
The text about Spartaqs on pages 24-27 is translated below.
Dronoids and other Spartaqs’ aerial innovations.
The last decade has already accustomed us to a situation in which Poland is a country with a strong position when it comes to the design and production of unmanned aerial and aviation solutions in general. The situation is maybe even better than we think. Last year, for example, the Spartaqs company from Katowice emerged from the shadows, presenting a ready product line of universal multirotor UAVs. And that’s just a fraction of its interesting activity.
The sister companies Spartaqs and Spartaqs High Technology were created specifically to create unmanned aerial vehicles. In this duo Spartaqs is a design office, and SHT is a distributor of Spartaqs products. Such a division is necessary for logistical reasons and for the security of technology. Both companies were created as another venture of Sławomir Huczała, inventor and creator of other construction companies. He creates and designs his own solutions himself. At the stage of the model, they are handed to one of the construction teams. Then Mr. Huczała interferes in this work only in cases when there are any problems. The result of this long-term research, work and experience are numerous completed projects, solutions, patents and products commercialized in the country and in the world.
Private construction office
The Spartaqs company was established in February 2014 and SHT in May 2016. The first company was created to implement UAV projects (it is so-called Core business) and after two years when the projects were ready for sale and commercialization, the SHT distribution company was established for them. This is a scheme of action in all companies of Sławomir Huczała, which allows him to focus primarily on the creation and development of projects, while the distribution is dealt with by a separate commercial structure established specifically for this purpose.
The first unmanned device created by Sławomir Huczała was created even earlier, because eight years ago, which was accompanied by rather unusual circumstances. His company took part in the “Cybergod” project, conducted in cooperation with the Prevention Department of the Provincial Police Headquarters in Katowice. The aim of the project was to create a specialized collar due to which a police dog can be controlled as a remote-controlled vehicle. Thanks to the natural method based on Pavlov’s reflexes, the dog performed all commands and the use of GSM technology allowed for practically unlimited range. The project is a successful biocybernetic implementation and the Han service dog is the first in the world (in non-military applications) animal, which, regardless of the distance from the guide, accurately performed all the commands and procedures. The installed GSM technology and a mini camera with a transmitter allowed to view the image that the dog saw. The project is still being developed and foreign dog training centers are also interested in it.
To accurately follow the movements of the animal during the trials a small UVA was needed to track it from the air. For this purpose, a small machine was purchased from the commercial market. It was quickly “eviscerated” and its interior was changed almost completely, as a result of which its parameters significantly increased (i.a. flight duration was increased from 17 to 36 min and maximum flight altitude from 100 m to … over 1.5 km). Then a few other commercial “drones” were bought for trials. Each time they were modified and it turned out that thanks to the non-standard, fresh approach, they can be significantly improved. In this situation it seemed logical to start design work and produce own proprietary solutions.
As a result, in the last four years, the entire product line of specialized unmanned aerial systems was created. As pointed out by representatives of Spartaqs, each of them is a modular solution, easy to modify and having many applications depending on the client’s needs. The idea is not so much to create flying systems and to adapt to them the future user, the idea is to create solutions perfectly tailored to the needs of the client, almost not requiring training operators and acting autonomously. Sławomir Huczała suggests to call this type of solutions not drones, but DRONOIDS – to differentiate robotic, professional devices from simple “toys” commonly available on the market, or battle drones. The President of Spartaqs also believes that until recently unmanned aerial vehicles were primarily flying cameras with built-in additional functions. Today, attachment to this stereotype seems to be anachronistic, as well as other clichés in the design of UVA. Mr. Huczała’s solutions are now able to cope even without a vision, calculating the route based on GPS, magnetometer, barometer and accelerometer and the route saved by the on-board computer. DRONOIDS are also resistant to attempts to take over and / or deliberately interfere with radio signals. This is possible due to the implementation (in selected models) of image analysis algorithms. Disturbed DRONOID switches to a flight by waypoints and continues to complete the mission.
Due to the use of miniature receivers ADS-B, the Polish company Aerobits, DRONOIDS autonomously track the air traffic and, if necessary, change direction, lower the flight or land in order to leave the potentially collision course. The use of ADS-B module significantly increases the safety of using these devices in every application.
DRONOIDS – offer for today
The company offers today five basic unmanned platforms, each of which is a modifiable solution, based on which a system tailored to the customer’s needs can be created. All of them were based on elements made of lightweight carbon fibers (designed in Spartaqs and manufactured by an external company), and their shapes of the hulls were created taking into account the principles of aerodynamics, which is not so obvious in the case of multirotors.
The largest of the DRONOIDS is HSD Ares, with its own weight of 8.5 kg (12 kg modification with ADS-B) capable in the basic version to transfer 5.5 kg (4 kg) of payload. It was integrated with a wide range of cameras: FPV, night vision and thermovision, full HD daylight with 60x zoom (standard in the Polish Armed Forces today is 30x) and 4K with 90x zoom. This large (182 cm long after being laid out for flight) and fast four-engine (H4 layout, two-blade propellers) was equipped with a hybrid drive with four engines. The machine is characterized by an oblong hull made of carbon fibers body that ensure high speed and resistance. It did not happen without a reason: Ares is also supposed to operate during the night or difficult weather conditions and carry out reconnaissance – on large as on a multirotor – distances. The maximum radius of its operation in terms of operator control range is 5 km. The radius using autonomous flight increases to 12 km, and the maximum residence time in the air in ideal conditions is 1.5 hour. Due to the applied on-board electronics solutions, Ares is characterized by high independence, and hence immunity to interference, which is the hallmark of Spartaqs products, where a strong emphasis is placed on its own solutions in the field of secure communication and data transmission. It also has the ability to perform the mission independently without contacting the base. The flying apparatus also has redundant circuits responsible for control and power supply, which increase its reliability and bring the construction closer to the typical military requirements.
The second of the flagship dronoids is today Vector V4X – the most universal of all constructions, also created in a four-rotor layout, but with four electric motors. Its own weight is 6.5 kg, the radius of action – 5 km, range 10 km and the maximum residence time in the air is up to 45 minutes. The platform is praised by its creator as moving silently and offering particularly good stability. The use of Vector V4X defines the head hung under it. There is i.a. a version with a camera with 120x (!) zoom for observation, or with a camera and aiming system enabling pinpointing and automatic tracking of the selected object. V4X can also be used to create orthophotomaps, make geodetic measurements, inspections of levees, dams, gas pipelines, inspections and thermal analyzes for industry. It can also perform air quality analyzes, exhaust emissions and pollutants at their source, without dispersing them with its own rotors including securing sealed samples in gel. There are only some of its example applications.
The Spartaqs offer is supplemented by an OWL Vision Drone equipped with six (or 12) electric motors. This device can be based on a mobile platform mounted on a car (e.g. a pickup class) and serve as a mobile observation point, powered by wire and maintaines in the air for up to 18 hours. OWL can even soar to one kilometer (in the mode without an electric harness) moving sensors weighing up to 8.5 kg, including daylight cameras and thermal cameras with a large zoom, 3D cameras, radar, LIDAR, sonic locator, laser target indicators or listening devices. This solution is suitable everywhere where it is impossible to use standard monitoring, for instance during a dynamic situation, breaking up temporary camps, stands etc.
In the company’s catalog there is also a specialized UAV for the fire brigades called Fire Fighter Drone. This is another four-rotor machine, capable of detecting sources of fire using the FFD apparatus and analyzing its spread. It can extinguish these fire sources with the help of special chemical-pyrotechnic extinguishing agents (dry ice) fired from 8 launchers. Fire Fighter was made of flame-retardant materials and can operate in places inaccessible to firefighters or manned aircraft. The device can operate at heights of up to 1.5 km, which means it can be used even in the fires of the highest skyscrapers in the world. It seems ideal for the role of aerial scouts sent to the action as the first. With their help, an initial assessment of the situation can be made and the fire can be eliminated. Other machines of this type may have a megaphone installed in place of the launcher with which voice messages can be given to teams of firefighters or, for example, indicate a route of escape for endangered civilians.
The fifth and last one of the DRONOIDS currently available in the official offer is Helidron. This machine is made of high-quality carbon fiber with an own mass of 5 kg, created in the form of a classic helicopter (Sikorsky system). In comparison with the multirotors it is faster and the floats can be attached to it, thanks to which it is able to land on the water and even tow the object floating on the surface of the water. The machine is intended primarily for emergency operations – moving emergency equipment, as well as rafts and buoys to places unavailable, and also marking places of disasters with markers.
UAVs presented in the Spartaqs’ public offer have been comprehensively tested – both during hundreds of hours of air tests conducted by the company on their own, as well as during exercises with various public safety services. For a year and a half, four different dronoids were tested by the Carpathian Border Guard Unit – Wolves Support Unit. The tests were conducted also by the AT unit of the Provincial Police Headquarters in Katowice and many others. The Spartaqs company was the organizer of demonstrations of the DRONOIDS’ operations for services at many closed events; among others presented the possibilities of intercepting foreign drones at the BOR conference, devoted to the threats of unlawful use of UAVs in 2015. At the Power of Synergy conference devoted to the cooperation of the Border Guard, the Central Bureau of Investigation and the Internal Security Agency in the field of combating cross-border and organized crime, the Spartaqs company together with the Border Guard pilots, presented the dronoids tested in the unit in action. As a result of these activities, numerous improvements have been introduced in each of the projects. Due to it, the company’s representatives are confident today of the solutions they offer. As they say, this level of full readiness was achieved last year, thanks to which in June Spartaqs could formulate its offer.
However, all this is just the tip of the iceberg. The company is already testing new solutions, often with a high degree of maturity, that look ahead to the extent that we can talk about setting new global trends. One of them is the invisible UAV Prometheus – small and controlled from a wrist-top computer machine which is designed to conduct secretive observation. All of the Spartaqs DRONOIDS are controlled from a wrist-top computer, although a mobile operator’s console in the form of a suitcase is also used for this purpose.The platform moves silently and at the same time takes the background image on which it is located. Prometheus can have on itself several smoothly merging colors simultaneously, if from different sides it is on a different background color. The way in which this was achieved is not evident. We will therefore limit ourselves only to the fact that it is obtained in a cost-effective manner, and the operator has on the screen a kind of potentiometer on which it is seen how functional the camouflage is at the moment, just as it happens while sneaking in some computer games. The apparatus has observation cameras: full HD daylight camera and thermovision one.
Spartaqs tests urban UAV Raptor V4C with four encapsulated impellers – light construction, and thus safe for the environment and for itself. Its falls from a height of 100 m are being currently tested, which do not cause the prototype any damage. Works are also being carried out on small and very low-cost reconnaissance UAVs, which military or special forces could use at a team level. Another idea which is being developed now is an early warning system composed of an autonomous patrolling wheeled platform, equipped with a small four-rotor. This small UAV starts when an anomaly / suspicious event is detected and can be examined more thoroughly.
One of the most interesting and ambitious project of Spartaqs is the anti-drone system today. Its base consists of two types of UAVs – Vector V4 (four-rotor) and Vector V8 (eight-rotor). The first of these was equipped with an electromagnetic radiation emitter, which can damage a drone from a distance of up to 20 m. The second one was armed with kinetic effectors – two launchers of specially formed shot and two launchers of twisted veins, in which the rotors of the attacked target can get tangled up. Vector V8 can also catch the intruder in the net, and then bring it to the ground. The logic of the system is that Vector V4 attacks as the first by using its electromagnetic pulse, which often in and of itself leads to a crash of the target. If this does not happen, then it is “stunned” enough that a powerful Vector V8 with its short-range kinetic effectors can come to it.
Unmanned hunters operate autonomously. The system can operate from the earth’s surface, and then the place of Vector V4 can take a larger and faster Ares. Vector V4 is used when the anti-drone system is installed not on the ground, but in … the air. Spartaqs is currently working on an idea according to which two pairs of DRONOIDS: V4 and V8 will be suspended on aerostatic outriggers of base systems (ABS) as part of the ADPS dronet protection system. Its idea is to send geostationary aerostats located at fixed altitudes every 10 km from each other and at a height of about 2 km. They will maintain themselves, at the designated position, by making adjustments using four rotors receiving commands from the navigation device. This is to enable the creation of an effective surveillance network, which communicates with system operators on the ground and ground-based tracking and identification devices.
For now, ABS exists in the form of a technology demonstrator in the scale of 1:8. Its tests begin in the UAV testing cage built just in Spartaqs. It is worth emphasizing that the company has invested a lot in its own testing infrastructure, including the aerodynamic tunnel. It also has 3D printers and other devices that enable the construction of demonstrators and prototypes. As Mr. Huczała emphasizes – these are precisely investments in this infrastructure and new projects that are today the company’s main financial effort, as it is primarily a construction office and not a serial production factory. Spartaqs has been awarded many times for its designs and unmanned products. In Poland, Made in Poland certification, awarded to the best Polish producers, at the Emirates and Europe Ekonomic Forum in 2016 Spartaqs received the Innovation Award for the design of multi-task unmanned aerial vehicles. At the 5th Congress of Polish Entrepreneurship it was awarded the Polish Innovation Award in 2017.
Of course, some serial production and sales are carried out. We have already found a few clients for the Ares and Vector V4X platforms and floating systems (aquatic, although the company is also already working on an innovative unmanned underwater apparatus). To increase production capacity and mass production, the company is looking for a business partner who would either take over the mass production of its machines or enter into cooperation in the joint construction of production lines on a joint venture basis. Time for such activities seems extremely convenient, if only considering the modernizing of Polish Armed Forces and the industry supporting them. Spartaqs’ motto is Safety without Compromises and the goal is to create a vision of the future by creating and developing unmanned autonomous DRONOIDS.
Written by Maciej Szopa
Translated by Monika Danel