Quadcopter Goes up 20K Feet to Top of Kilimanjaro

Posted by Betsy Lillian on April 21, 2015 No Comments

Cheetah Air, a division of Cheetah Software Systems, recently operated its specially built, high-altitude quadcopter to record a team's trek to the summit of Tanzania's Mt. Kilimanjaro.

The Kilimanjaro Climb for Valor, organized by Tusker Trail and led by Eddie Frank, returned safely after a nine-day trek from Feb. 17-25. The Kilimanjaro Climb for Valor is an organized climb with 100% of proceeds going to charity Duskin & Stephens, which supports families of fallen soldiers.

Edan Cain, chief technology officer of Cheetah Air, captured video of the climb from an airborne platform. In addition to providing support for the team, Cheetah Air performed what it says is its first high-altitude drone research and development while operating in extreme temperatures (5 degrees F), high winds (5-30 mph) and extreme altitudes (10,000-19,340 feet).

“We went knowing that the drones would be taxed to their limit and beyond in this rugged environment. The commercially available quadcopter functioned well for video capture up to about 10,500 feet. Our hope was that this platform would continue to be operational up to around 15,000 feet,” says Cain.
“To see it work – and work well – considering the highest we had tested it in California was 9,500 feet, was hugely exciting,” he adds. “We fully intend to return and try again with an even more powerful craft and Mother Nature's support.”

The company says the lessons it learned on the climb have proven to be invaluable for its plans to deploy medicine to climbers in need or to assist search-and-rescue operations. Cheetah also sees its experience in operating under extreme conditions to be beneficial for developing other drone applications, including pipeline monitoring, precision agriculture and product deliveries.

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