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SOFINS: French company pitches UAV hive concept

31st March 2017 - 12:15 by Erwan de Cherisey in Souge, France

SOFINS: French company pitches UAV hive concept

French start-up company Drone Hive is showcasing a new concept for unmanned air vehicles (UAV) operations at the SOFINS exhibition.

As one of the company's executives told Shephard, the concept - also known as Drone Hive - is to automate the use of mini multi-rotor UAVs to reduce the operator's workload and improve rapid response capabilities. It also allows for a single operator to oversee the operation of several drones.

The Drone Hive is a box-like shelter designed to serve as the 'home' of the UAV. The aircraft is stored inside it, ready to take-off.

The Hive allows for fully autonomous UAV operations with take-off, mission following, landing and sheltering of the drone all automated. Upon its return into the Hive, the UAV's batteries are recharged, leaving the aircraft ready for a new mission.

Human interaction with the UAVs is limited to corrective maintenance operations in case of a malfunction, or scheduled servicing and support actions which includes battery replacement every few months.

The company presented conceptual images of its final development of the Hive, which mimics the hexagonal shape of a bee hive. The concept shows several such Hives stacked onto a pick-up vehicle for a swarm capability.

According to Drone Hive, the UAV 'swarm' would allow for greater operational flexibility, with each drone being tasked with a different role. The saturating capability of a swarm against an adversary equipped with anti-UAV capabilities would also allow for at least part of the drones to carry out their mission unopposed.

The Hive concept is now three years old but the company was only set up a year ago and the product is still being refined.

The system is conceived for civilian and military applications, with the latter role seeing it used for perimeter surveillance, for example, the defence of a forward operating base. The Drone Hive can be integrated within a surveillance network alongside other sensors which, when triggered will automatically activate the drone's launch sequence and vector it toward the point where the activation has been recorded.

At SOFINS, the Hive integrated an Aeraccess Q800X quadcopter UAV with a gyro-stabilized EO/IR payload., but the Hive can be used with any UAV which fits into it.

To integrate into the Hive system, the UAV is fitted with a specific module that has been developed by the company.

French Special Operations Command (COS) has approached the company regarding the possibility of integrating the Hive onto a tactical vehicle and talks have been ongoing since early 2017.

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