“Dragon Eye“ UAVs are also important for scientific purposes, as NASA Earth scientists use them for an aerial exploration of Turrialba volcano‘s sulfur dioxide plume:
NASA Earth science researchers last month traveled to Turrialba Volcano, near San Jose, Costa Rica, to fly a Dragon Eye unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) — a small electric aircraft equipped with cameras and sensors — into the volcano’s sulfur dioxide plume and over its summit crater, to study Turrialba’s chemical environment. The project is designed to improve the remote-sensing capability of satellites and computer models of volcanic activity. The study, called “In Situ Validation and Calibration of Remotely Sensed Volcanic Emission Data and Models,” launched 10 flights between March 11-14, 2013, into the volcanic plume and along the rim of the Turrialba summit crater approximately 10,500 feet above sea level (ASL). The launch site was located at 8,900 feet ASL, and flights ranged up to 12,500 feet ASL, more than 2,000 feet above the Turrialba summit. Project objectives included improving satellite data research products, such as maps of concentration and distribution of volcanic gases, and transport-pathway models of volcanic plumes. During the research flights, the team coordinated its data gathering with the Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection (ASTER) instrument on NASA’s Terra spacecraft, allowing scientists to compare sulfur dioxide concentration measurements from the satellite with measurements taken from within the plume. Scientists believe computer models derived from this study will contribute to safeguarding the National and International Airspace System, improve global climate predictions, and mitigate environmental hazards (e.g., sulfur dioxide volcanic smog or “vog”) for people who live around volcanoes.
More importantly, the project aims to the means for better observing volcanic materials for scientific purposes:
The project is designed to improve the remote-sensing capability of satellites and computer models to monitor volcanic activity. The study, called “In Situ Validation and Calibration of Remotely Sensed Volcanic Emission Data and Models,” launched 10 flights between March 11-14 into the volcanic plume and along the rim of the Turrialba summit, approximately 10,500 feet above sea level. “The volcanoes of Costa Rica provide superb natural laboratories to test and develop these volcanological UAV systems,” NASA said. A long-term project goal is to develop the means to sample drifting ash and gas in volcanic plumes up to 30,000 feet, which result from large explosive eruptions such as those that crippled aviation traffic in Iceland and Europe in the spring of 2010, the agency added.
On the other hand, the “Dragon Eye” is an effective surveillance tool, that is used by the US Marine Corps:
Dragon Eye is a five-pound, back-packable, modular unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) providing organic aerial reconnaissance and surveillance for the US Marine Corps at low tactical units levels. Dragon Eye’s twin electric engines run quietly on battery power. It is flown autonomously at an altitude of 150m’. The total weight of the Dragon Eye is 2.5 kg, of the payload (camera and equipment) weighs 1 pound. The US Marines Corps are planning to procure an enhanced version of Dragon-Eye, known as model X-63. The system is carried in a standard backpack, disassembled into five sections and carried with the 5 kg control station. Prior to the mission it is quickly assembled in the field within ten minutes. Dragon Eye is made of lightweight Styrofoam-like materials. It has a 18 cm wingspan once assembled and weighs about five pounds. The missions is programmed on the control station and transmitted to the UAV via wireless modem. The UAV is launched by a bungee cord or by hand. After launch it climbs to the cruise altitude and sweeps through the pre-assigned waypoints, navigating via GPS. The fuselage mounted side looking sensor comprises of a low-light b/w camera, capable of transmitting live video to the ground station from a distance of 10 km, via line-of-sight video datalink. Operator’s training requires less than a week for soldiers to be able to operate them.
Finally, defense technology can have multiple uses not only in military operations but also in sciece. Look at a “Dragon Eye.”