Paterson Composites to build components for Northrop Grumman Astro Aerospace autonomous Passenger Drone
The Astro Aerospace Passenger Drone's touch flight control enables passengers to fly manually or autonomously. The fully functional prototype includes VTOL capabilities and hosts 16 individual rotors to maximize safety and performance (Image source: Astro Aerospace).

Paterson Composites to build components for Astro Aerospace autonomous Passenger Drone

Astro Aerospace, in Carpinteria, Calif., is partnering with carbon composite manufacturer Paterson Composites in Toronto to build components for its new, state-of-the-art, autonomous aerial transport vehicle, the Astro Aerospace Passenger Drone. Company officials expect Astro Aerospace to be the first company to go public with a fully functional prototype of an autonomous passenger plane.
 
The Astro Aerospace Passenger Drone is eco-friendly and emission-free, and its touch flight control enables passengers to fly manually or autonomously. The fully functional prototype includes VTOL capabilities and hosts 16 individual rotors to maximize safety and performance. The unmanned aircraft system (UAS) is designed to reduce aircraft weight and magnetic interference using fiber-optic technology, and the exterior is built with carbon-fiber materials. The wide cabin glass design encasing the cockpit optimizes the travel experience by providing 360-degree surround views and enhanced seating comfort.
 
The partnership follows Astro Aerospace’s acquisition of Passenger Drone, maker of vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) aircraft in Lewisville, Texas, in May 2018.
 
Passenger drones – also known as drone taxis, flying taxis, or pilotless helicopters – are a type of unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that carries passengers.
 
Ehang Inc. in San Carlos, Calif., introduced the first commercially produced, low-altitude, autonomous passenger (UAS), the EHang 184 Autonomous Aerial Vehicle, which can carry a single person up to 10 miles away at speeds up to 80 miles an hour, at the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Other key players in the market of passenger unmanned aircraft include Uber; Bell, a Textron company; Terrafugia Corp.; Volocopter GmbH; Lilium; Airbus Group; AeroMobil s.r.o.; and Cartivator.
 
The passenger UAS market is booming, spurred by environmental factors, the growing urban population, rising traffic congestion, need for improved ambulatory services, technological advancements, and declining unmanned aircraft costs. Analysts at Market Research Future in Maharashtra, India predict the global passenger UAS market will achieve a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 28 percent between 2018 and 2024 to cross the $800 million mark by 2024. But advancements and ability to fly passenger UAS regularly are still hindered by limited endurance, safety concerns, lack of regulatory framework, supporting infrastructure, cohesive air-traffic management network, and limited battery life with a lack of mid-air charging ability. 
 
Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) officials in Washington last released regulations in 2016 requiring UAS of any kind to be within the line of sight and controlled by a live operator. While passenger UAS regulations may still have a long way to go, officials at Delft Aerial Robotics (DAR) in Delft, the Netherlands, are already testing what they are calling the first fully autonomous drone network, with docking stations and UAS rentals. Industry pundits speculate that Delft will become the world’s first drone city.
 
Officials in other locales worldwide are working to achieve their own UAS milestones. Others pushing for more UAS use include New Zealand, where the first pizza was delivered to a customer via a commercial unmanned delivery service in 2016, and UPS and Amazon, both of which are testing UAS parcel delivery in certain locations fueled by the potential to save millions of dollars.  
 
“We are elated by our new partnership with Paterson Composites, specialists in the work of carbon fiber, who will undoubtedly enable us, as a team, to build an aerial vehicle capable of awing and serving the world,” says Astro Aerospace CEO Bruce Bent.
 
Paterson Composites CEO Rob Paterson is joining the company as the newest advisor to the Astro Aerospace Design team. “His guidance and project management skills, which will be placed towards the construction of the Passenger Drone, are highly respected, credible, viable, and of course, appreciated as we embark on this journey,” Bent says.
 
Paterson has experience in crafting teams of specialists, designers, and engineers, leading complex design structures and construction formats, and working closely with both robotics and composites for over the past 10 years.
 
“I’m pleased to be joining the Astro Design Team as its newest advisor and look forward to offering my expertise to a project that will propel the aerial industry forward and take vehicular production a step into the future,” says Paterson, who has built composite components for aerial vehicles across the aerospace, defense, medical, and marine industries.
 
Paterson Composites and Astro Aerospace will build the second version of the Passenger Drone, which will be available for purchase by the public upon completion, constructing the entire airframe, from cockpit to frame to propeller blades.
 
“We’re excited to take Astro’s technology and prototype and bring it to the general public, giving the opportunity to everyone who has dreamed of flying the ability to experience the thrill in a safe and controlled environment with the Astro Passenger Drone,” Bent says.


 

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