UNMANNED microdrone
CROSSES THE ALPS

Siegen, 13th June 2013. On Wednesday morning, a microdrone md4-1000 achieved something which no other quadrocopter had done before: equipped with a HD camera, in adverse conditions it crossed the Gotthard massif from Switzerland in the direction of Italy. The complex record flight, which took just 25 minutes, was monitored and documented by a professional stunt and film team. Helicopters and multiple cameras accompanied the md4-1000 on its way over the Alps. Several companies, including Mercedes-Benz, were involved in the experiment.

In times when the »Euro-Hawk« drones are not a favoured topic in Germany, it is often forgotten how flexible and important so called »unmanned aerial vehicles« can be for civil applications – and how powerful »UAVs made in Germany« are. microdrones GmbH has now proven itself in an adventurous experiment: its microdrone md4-1000 crossed the Alps over the famous Gotthard pass between Hospental and Airolo.

A complex challenge

»Such a flight is a very complex challenge for a remote controlled quadrocopter, and requires a long flight time, precision and resilience from the microdrone. There are many factors involved which we cannot calculate. That’s why up to now no one had the courage to try this experiment«, explains Sven Juerss. microdrones CEO and member of the ground team, which accompanied the md4-1000 from a Mercedes-Benz SL and GL 63 AMG. »That we actually managed this makes me really proud «, said Juerss shortly after the record flight.

Over 1,600 metres altitude difference

The md4-1000 flew the entire 12 kilometre-long stretch fully automatically in GPS Waypoint mode, avoiding high voltage power lines and telephone lines as well as a cable car. Further coimplications were the various atmospheric conditions of sun and snow as well as altitude differences of more than 1,600 metres. »The very diverse route provided us with fantastic images« reported Juerss.

The strong wind presented a further unpredictable obstacle, made more intense due to the temperature differences. »The cold wind was practically falling down the mountain on the southern side – it was a bit like if you were jumping on a skateboard into a halfpipe – only you’re controlling the skateboard by remote control«, said Juerss.

Several months in advance the experiment was prepared down to the finest detail: the route as measured precisely and divided into 18 waypoints, and obstacles were identified and mapped.

Several companies were involved in preparation and realisation of the project. Daimler AG for example provided Mercedes-Benz cars. Sony Deutschland, Carl Zeiss AG and the hard- and software manufacturer u-blox supported this extraordinary endurance test.

International team of experts

»We had a fantastic team here, without whom this experiment would not have been possible.« Five flight operators, for start, ground, air, landing and waypoints controlled the pre-programmed flight. To document the record precisely and to produce the best possible images, microdrones flew in a professional stunt and film crew from the US. The all-action professionals, normally engaged for blockbuster productions, were impressed by their miniature, remote-controlled colleagues. The team was complemented by professional pilots for the md4-1000 and engineers.

In early 2012 microdrones had already set a record when the company documented by film that a  md4-1000 could hover for 88 minutes in the air with no external influences. Juerss explains: »These endurance tests are very important. It is often forgotten that microdrones can be used in a great variety of ways, for disaster relief or to advance science. And in these applications endurance, resilience and reliability really matter.«

A partcular note of thanks goes to our sponsors, above all slamartist.com. Ferdi Fischer was director, coordinator and the man responsible for all action scenes on the entire »set«.

IMPRESSIONS OF THE ALPS CROSSING