There’s durable aircraft and then there’s DURABLE aircraft.
Based in Colorado, Black Swift Technologies designs and manufactures unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) for scientific missions in extreme conditions, such as monitoring and assessing the Arctic landscape, wildfires, tornadoes, hurricanes and volcanoes. The company frequently works with government agencies such as NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the United States Geological Survey (USGS), focusing on building better models of turbulent environments that provide more accurate predictions of danger levels or of an event’s severity and progression.
“Our products are being used to improve models of hurricanes and wildfires,” notes Jack Elston, founder and CEO of Black Swift Technologies. “It's exciting to help support research which can have a significant impact on safety and preventing property loss."
When designing their aircraft, BST engineers need to consider the resistance to extreme temperatures, high winds and unpredictable atmospheric conditions.
“For the volcano applications, we have to worry about sulfuric acid. It will corrode bolts and many other parts rather quickly,” Elston says. “After just one mission through volcano plumes, we’ve seen aircraft come back looking like they've been sitting outside for 15 years because everything is just rusted and falling apart.”
“In the Arctic, aside from materials becoming brittle or parts not fitting together well, there are additional challenges where the people operating the aircraft don't want to be taking off their gloves when it's minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit outside. So your design has to make sure that the operator doesn't need any special tools in the field,” he says.