In recent months Makani has met two critical flight milestones in first-of-kind demonstrations as per the requirements of the ARPA-E sponsored Wing 7 project. Both of these flights occurred at Makani’s test site on the Alameda Naval Air Station.
Milestone 4 stipulated autonomous transition from crosswind flight to hover mode. In this demonstration, the wing moves rapidly from high-speed, circular flight back into stationary hover flight and remains stationary for over a minute before landing. This demonstration shows the wing’s ability to regain stationary hover flight before landing to a perch.
Makani first met Milestone 4 on September 1st. During the short flight, the wing transitioned autonomously from hover into crosswind flight, performed six loops and, at a command from our controls team, autonomously transitioned back into hover. While hovering, the wing remained stationary, supporting the fully extended tether for over a minute under full autonomous control.
The next step was to show that the wing could autonomously launch and land. For Milestone 5, the Makani team demonstrated that Wing 7 can hover on and off of a perch under full autonomous control and without any human input. Milestone 5 has now been repeated multiple times and under variable and sometimes gusty conditions.
The first demonstration of Milestone 5 was completed on a windy day in mid-November. The wing autonomously launched from the perch, reeled out and hovered for over a minute before reeling itself in to autonomously land on a perch. As per the milestone, the test was repeated after a four minute rest period. Throughout the day, winds varied from 3 to 11 m/s (7-25 mph). This is within our design and simulation envelope, and we were pleased to see Wing 7 repeatedly and precisely land back into the perch interface despite shifts in wind speed and direction.