The proposed unmanned multirotor vehicle with enhanced endurance enabled by a passive Miller Cycle series hybrid propulsion system confronts many commercial markets relevant to current NASA efforts. Two potential commercial markets that we will pursue include Emergency Services and Inspection Services. Aurora intends to replace expensive manned helicopter systems used by both emergency personnel for fire or disaster mapping, and by commercial inspection services for building inspections or utility service inspections (e.g. cell phone towers, power lines, and bridges). A second potential market for these multirotors would be in environmental monitoring and data collection in severe operational conditions where the use of manned vehicles would pose an inordinate risk to the pilots. This could include wildfire monitoring, storm tracking, environmental data collection in extreme environments (i.e. arctic conditions), and more. The passive miller cycle series hybrid propulsion system is an enabling technology for breaking into these markets as the current state-of-the-art in multirotors has endurances too low to be practical for such missions.
There are two main non-NASA commercial markets that Aurora sees as prime targets for using the high-endurance and payload capacity vertical lift aircraft developed under this program: Commercial applications and non-NASA Governmental applications. On the commercial side the primary market we are targeting is for urban operations, primarily for police operations and electronic news gathering. This market is currently limited to manned helicopters which are expensive to maintain and operate. Opening up this market to unmanned vehicles would provide a substantial reduction in operational costs and operational footprint (e.g. takeoff/landing area requirements, emissions, and noise) than the current manned systems. Additionally, it is expected that the lower operational costs would open the market to smaller law enforcement departments and news agencies that up to now have not had air services. On the government side, there are many aspects of the government and military that could benefit from this platform. Its long endurance would be a useful in ISR missions as well as inspection services for oil and gas lines, solar and wind farms, and other large areas that need to be monitored. Additionally, its payload capacity would be invaluable in distributing material (i.e. ordinance, radios, first-aid supplies, rations) in contested urban environments with friendly forces spread over a large the area.