When Lockheed Martin acquired Procerus in 2012, the general consensus was that something big was going to happen. The technology that Procerus had was beyond anything that commercial UAV designers, tinkerers and users were previously familiar with. Their booth at the AUVSI show usually had thirsty folks lined up to see their latest technology and applications. When the Indago came out, Lockheed seemed to have the high-tech platform that military, police and fire departments would easily adopt, and the Lockheed brand would be a no brainier when deciding between a no-name solution. Once again big aerospace shut out any competition, and absorbed an aerial market that new players could have entered. Fast forward to 2019 and it’s clear that things didn’t play out that way. Though the reasons for the actual results are complex, let’s have a look at the actual equipment for clues.
For this review, we will be looking at an Indago that was retrofitted with a still image payload and sold by Dynamic UAV for topography applications using photogrammetry. We received one on a trade-in-discount for an Eclipse mapping system, after the customer had a crash and subsequent support issues with his Indago.
Given that charging is a big part of operating multiotors for mapping applications. I was shocked that the charging system was so complex and piecemealed. Big bulky and too many buttons, I could see how any user could make a mistake charging a pricey battery. There may have been a few iterations on the charging system since the delivery of this unit, but for a big aerospace company to ever ship a product with this charging system is shocking.
It seems that Lockheed could not have been responsible for the payload integration for this Indago, boards were shoved into nooks, granted, there isn’t much designated space for payload accessories in the Indago itself. My first thought on lifting the cover was that the responsible party just needed to get something working and sold ASAP. From the installation and part selection, I would assume that payload design and integration for this unit was not taken seriously. With the tight controls that one would expect from Lockheed, I am shocked that they would allow their platform to be resold in this condition.
The Indago looks well built, the materials selected are carbon fiber, Kevlar and what appears to be a healthy amount of 3D printed nylon. The arms are swappable and fold down to make a more compact unit for transport. There is a nice vibration absorbing gel mount on the autopilot. Clearly a large amount of engineering has gone into it: the motor controllers are all custom and the motors and propellers are probably customized. By designing the propeller, motor and controller, engineers were able to maximize flight time(50 minutes maximum), which is a much needed feature for most applications involving multirotors.
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