NOVAerial Robotics Mobile Field Unit

NOVAerial Robotics wishes to do a feature to present its mobile ground control station as an example of the type of system that professional UAV operators will probably be using in the future. This cargo trailer trailer was converted into a mobile office to support flight testing activities on large systems, in countries where the weather isn’t very warm for 6 months out of the year.

The trailer started as a 6×12 all-aluminum cargo trailer from NEO in Michigan.  These are a nice high-end trailer, with bonded rivet-less exterior, RV door, etc.  The rubber torsion axle was chosen, with radial tires for a smoother ride for the cargo. Along with white vinyl interior, and one window.  The manufacturer put the window on the wrong side, which Neo remedied by adding one on the correct side (with the door).

From there, NOVAerial did the up-fitting. This was started by rolling truck-bed liner on the floor, as it makes for a very durable floor covering.  Originally there was to be 20″ shelving on one side, and a 20″ wide desk on the side with the door and window.  But after receiving it the unit and test fitting, it was decided it made more sense to have a single 32″ wide desk giving more room for preparation.  Because of the lack of shelving, a space was added under the desk which can hold two large helis or medium-sized octocopters.


In the front are two storage cabinets, and more workbench space. The bottom cabinet houses 2 Group 31 deep cycle batteries and a 1000W Inverter/Charger.  Not pictured is the Graupner Polaron EX1400 700 x 2-channel battery charger mounted to the workbench.  Very nice system indeed, and the upright position of the charger uses minimal bench space.

The computer system is a Zotac mini-PC with an Intel i3 processor, 8GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD, connected to a 24″ monitor.  This system with a real keyboard and mouse, and monitor mounted on the wall taking up no desk space is much better for working all day than a laptop.  The system can actually compile the Arducopter code in 8 minutes on the Windows build system..  So making any required code changes at the field is no problem at all.

At the rear are located 4 lockable storage cabinets, capable of holding several small helicopters, quadcopters, tripods or other ancillaries. You can also see the folding tables and chair which can be setup outside.  The E-track is useful for securing items like a propane heater or other assorted accessories.

Towed by a 4×4 truck, NOVAerial can get in to almost any location you would conceivably want to go, and stay there all day, taking shelter from the wind and short rain showers if necessary.  If the operation will require a lot of power to charge batteries, a generator can be set up outside.  It’s a very comfortable arrangement, and the only thing missing is a built-in furnace which will be added this year.  We have attempted to run portable propane radiant heaters inside, but find that requires the windows to be open to vent fumes, and lots of condensation ends up inside making it not an acceptable solution.

To be featured in a future blog,  NOVAerial have found that using tripods to hold electronics while flying outside to be ideal compared to setting up tables and sitting down, which never seems to work well and just results in the operator remaining standing to see the drone and then crouching down to fiddle with the computer.  We will also detail the Trex 800 camera ship shown below shortly.  Initial test flights are complete with 1.5kg of dummy weight in the camera bubble which is designed to take a full-frame DSLR.  It flies for 15 minutes on a very light battery load, plans are to double or triple the battery load for operational usage.  It has flown at 20 m/s like this so far but is very comfortable at 15 m/s.  This system was built for a customer who is doing very high end mapping which requires usage of a full frame sensor and very high-quality lenses.