The Commonwealth Scientific & Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) is seeking partners to commercialise a low-cost "intelligent" system that the Australian research centre has developed for small, unmanned helicopters.

CSIRO has developed an intelligent unmanned helicopter, dubbed Mantis, using low-cost micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS) sensors. CSIRO is looking for partners interested in commercialising the "brain" of Mantis for aftermarket applications in production helicopters.

Mantis, which is just over 0.5m (1.64ft) high and 1.5m long and features a custom-built aluminium airframe and landing gear, has numerous commercial applications, says CSIRO, particularly tasks that are difficult or dangerous for manned aircraft.

Dr Peter Corke of CSIRO's Complex Systems Integration unit says the agency has overcome many of the machine intelligence and cost issues that previously prevented the development of small unmanned air vehicles. The aim was to "develop an inexpensive system where the cost of the electronics, now almost 10 times more expensive than the helicopter, would instead be about the same", he says.

The major task was to develop an inertial sensing system and a computer vision system that could control the aircraft, provide flight stability and guide it. Corke adds: "The inertial sensing system behaves somewhat like our inner ear, providing balance and indicating the orientation of the helicopter in the air." The sensing system uses low-cost MEMS, is made from magnesium alloy and weighs 75g (2.64oz).

Source: Flight International