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Project example: UMARS

Flying laboratory for environmental research

UMARS stands for Unmanned Modular Airborne Research System and is an autonomous flying research aircraft used for meteorological research. With its simple handling system and broad range of use, it should make the work of environmental science easier and more cost-effective than the manned aircraft currently in use.

With UMARS, the strength and direction of the wind can also be determined along with measurements of air conditions and image analyses of the earth’s surface. Special flights at ground level and long-term measurements offer wide-ranging fields of application for all types of tasks in meteorological and geodetic research as well as for natural disaster relief (e.g. monitoring forest fires).

Since no airfield infrastructure is required, direct take-offs and landings are possible precisely where they are needed. 

Simple handling

In addition to flexibly fitted holders for measurement instruments, the final version of UMARS will also feature a highly mobile, automatic starter and be able to land on short, uneven strips of land. An independently functioning autopilot and a telemetric system that broadcasts in real time enable autonomous flying of individual measurement campaigns with simultaneous active monitoring of the mission from the ground.

The goal of the project is to provide researchers with an easy-to-use aid that can be operated without specially trained staff.

Versatile specification sheet

The UMARS research project includes several project phases and a large number of wide-ranging tasks. In addition to the actual flying aircraft, the take-off and landing systems, autopilots and interfaces with the measurement instruments also have to be developed, constructed and tested. In addition, processes and techniques for the autonomous operation need to be designed and the legal framework conditions for its operation within European airspace have to be confirmed or created. Analyses of current meteorological research efforts and surveys of potential users form the basis for the UMARS specification sheet. Studies carried out by the Institute of Mechanical Systems (IMES) reveal how performance parameters such as the weight and size of the load capacity will affect the desired operation time and mission profile. An airworthy demonstration aircraft at a 1:1 scale assists in reviewing these assumptions and gaining important experience and insights. It is also used as a flying test platform for the autopilots.

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At a glance

Participating institutes and centres

    Project partner:

    Financing: ZHAW School of Engineering and COST Schweiz

    Project status: completed