Since 1984 the European Union (EU) has been collaborating to foster programs that would benefit the Union’s relationship with technology. In 2014, the agenda was titled Horizon 2020, a program with a budget of €80 billion focused on innovative technology that would drive economic growth. When Horizon 2020 came to a close, it was renamed Horizon Europe in 2021 with a budget of €95.5 billion to be allocated over 7 years. Many of the research and development projects funded under the Horizon programs have been in the field of drone technology.
Beginning in 2019, a consortium of 7 EU entities, led by Poland’s Cervi Robotics, began working on a novel drone model. Under Grant ID 870236, Cervi was joined by Poland’s Rectangle, LUT University of Finland, NTT Data Spain, GINA Software of the Czech Republic, BladeScape, and Brimatech Services, both from Austria. The team set out to develop a niche drone that would meet the needs of aerial and ground use. In February of 2021, the team introduced the world to its hybrid drone prototype called HUUVER.
HUUVER, which stands for Hybrid UAV-UGV for Efficient Relocation of Vessels, can transition smoothly from an unmanned ground vehicle to an unmanned aerial vehicle. The drone uses 2 propulsion systems for mobilization. It has a center chassis that houses the drone’s software. Extending from the ends of the chassis are dual rods that support 4 sets of propellers. Surrounding the propellers, going along the length of the drone on each side, is a set of tracks. The tracks, similar to those found on a tank, can roll over a wide range of terrains. With rugged grippers, the tracks enable the drone to even perch on ledges and rocks. The tracks also serve as a launch and landing platform for the drone when in aerial mode.
When intended for aerial use, the tracks stop moving and the drone lifts off. HUUVER is a VTOL (Vertical TakeOff and Landing) drone. This means that it can be used in almost any environment. The drone is compact and easy to move. It can access any environment with the ability to fly over or crawl through. Powering the drone’s navigation will be Galileo, a global navigation system created by the EU and the European Space Agency. HUUVER will be the first drone to be fully integrated with Galileo. As explained in the projects’ objectives, “The positioning accuracy shall be achieved with the sensor fusion system based on multi-constellation satellite navigation system, inertial data and ranging information. The dual-frequency Galileo signals on the E1 and E5b bands will be used for correction of the ionospheric error, will also protect against malicious attacks.”
HUUVER is not yet available for deployment, by the project is scheduled for completion by January of 2022. The EU sees it as a drone that could be used in logistics, search and rescue, as well as defensive patrolling missions. “Our project is the next step in the development of drone technology and showing its unlimited possibilities,” said Jakub Węglarz, project lead from Cervi. “The HUUVER drone combines the most useful and necessary features of a flying drone with a ride-on drone, and the transition between modes is basically in a continuous motion. Thanks to the combination of knowledge and experience of seven partners, such an advanced technological hybrid drone was created.”