The Crew Behind The Uncrewed: José María Pulido
Could you briefly describe to us what are the main tasks that you have to carry out in your day to day life?
In my day-to-day life at UAV Navigation-Grupo Oesía, I carry out various tasks that contribute to the development of our products. These include writing technical requirements, programming flight control algorithms and conducting flight tests. What I really value about my position is the unique opportunity to be involved in every stage of the process, from the initial conception of an idea to the evaluation and implementation of the final product.
Due to your long experience at UAV Navigation-Grupo Oesía you have represented the group in many parts of the world working, side by side, with our clients. What do these trips mean to you and what has been the most special moment you have experienced in one of them?
Each trip is always special since, for a few days, you become part of the engineering team of another company and you feel the same emotion with the result, after months or years of work, when you reach the first flight milestone.
I think the most exciting moment I have experienced during these trips was during the first flight test carried out in the context of a project in which we converted a manned helicopter of more than 1.300 kg to optionally manned. This involves designing a system that allows flight control to be transferred between a OPV (Optionally Piloted Vehicle) human pilot and an autopilot. During this first test, the pilot had to hand over control for 5 seconds to the autopilot mid-flight. We had real-time video of the cockpit and there were more than 8 people monitoring all the autopilot parameters in real time.
These trips are an invaluable viewpoint into the realities, needs and challenges our clients face. This direct contact is crucial to guide us in the constant improvement of our products and services, ensuring that they are aligned with the expectations and demands of the market.
The launch of the VNS01 Visual Navigation System by UAV Navigation-Grupo Oesía, in whose development you have played a key role, has been received very positively in our industry. What are its strengths that you would highlight and that can explain this good response from the sector?
One of the most important challenges for any autopilot manufacturer is to provide a robust navigation solution that allows the mission to continue or recover the aircraft safely in environments where the GNSS signal is not available. This is not only important in the military market, but also in the civilian market.
The VNS01 was specifically designed to minimize dependence on GNSS positioning systems. Its positive reception in the market, in my opinion, is largely due to the growing demand for this type of solutions and the limited existing alternatives.
With the VNS01, it is possible to fly without GNSS signal, accumulating an error of approximately 1% of the distance traveled when flying over unknown areas. However, when crossing previously flown areas, the system automatically compensates for any accumulated errors. This correction is possible because the VNS01 continually creates a map, which is then compared to the images captured in real time.
Until today, there is no other product on the market with analogous characteristics. It is currently being evaluated by our clients, who have reported highly positive results.
As responsible for the flight control solution for rotary wing platforms, what new challenges do these platforms have to face in the near future?
The product we offer as a navigation, guidance and control solution is especially aimed at helicopter UAS of different configurations. It is important to highlight that when we talk about unmanned helicopters, we are referring to a particular subset within rotary wing UAV platforms. The technical and operational complexity they entail means that they face higher barriers to entry, avoiding the saturation observed in the multirotor segment.
Helicopter UAS are generally more efficient than multirotors and have a greater ability to operate in high wind conditions. This advantage makes them ideal platforms for onboard operations. Over the past few years, we have dedicated efforts to provide our clients with a solution that facilitates these maritime operations.
However, I think the main challenge with these platforms lies in their reliability and complexity. A helicopter is a complex machine, made up of numerous mechanical components that are crucial for its operation and the investment necessary to have a mature and reliable product is usually undervalued.