Learn How the QuestUAV Team Conducts the Annual Overhaul of an Intensively Used Q-200 Agri-Pro
The Dole crew on the Philippine island of Mindanao is certainly one of the busiest QuestUAV flight crews ever. They continuously fly the fields of the worlds largest pineapple plantation with two of our Q-200 Agri-Pro drones.
They acquire aerial images for a variety of applications, such as topographic surveying, erosion measurements, disease mapping and growth monitoring.
After more than 200 successful take-offs and landings, Dole has sent their much loved “Agila” back to QuestUAV for an annual overhaul. This overhaul was to include inspection, upgrades and replacements. Within three days of arrival of the kit in UK they would expect to get a full upgrade.
Adam, UAV engineer, taking pictures of every UAV component
After receiving the UAV, we start with a general inspection of the equipment.
We start the overhaul with comprehensive checks of the general condition of the whole UAV system, including A-frame, wings, cameras and flight laptop. All components are photographed and recorded. The initial assessment is important to estimate time and costs for repairs, upgrades and replacements.
Rather than replacing items wholesale, we make use of the modular QuestUAV design, retaining all parts that are still functional and in good condition. This method safes both costs for the end user and reduces unnecessary resources in the supply chain.
Then we start with the technical overhaul.
The Q-Pod is the UAV body and carries the system components, including: A-Block, cameras, gimbals and wings.
The modular design allows to easily replace and repair retired components without replacing the whole pod.
In this case the Q-Pod had received a lot of wear and tear from rough landings on the plantation. A new one, complete with upgrades made over the past year, was drawn off the shelves and prepared for integration. The upgrades included reinforced sideplates, lighter gimbal, and slightly denser EPP foam.
Old A-Block (left) and new A-Block (right)
Q200 Annual Inspection
The Avionics Block (A-Block) is the heart of the UAV, which carries the motor and the autopilot system.
After assessing the condition of the A-block and carefully checking the autopilot, we again decided to upgrade the existing system rather than replace everything. The autopilot was still in perfect condition and, again, the modular design allowed to exchange components rather than replace the whole A-Block. We retained the autopilot, logger and receiver and integrated these components into the new generation of our A-block frame.
The new A-block provided a more powerful motor, an upgraded ESC providing more cooling and more battery efficiency, improved anti vibration mounts and improved wiring layout.
After more than 200 landings in pineapple fields, though the wings would have carried on giving good service, we decided that the wings needed to be retired, if only to look better. They were replaced by a brand new pair of wings that were waiting in our stock (complete with new and more powerful digital servos). The old wings were immediately destroyed.
Adam assesses the wing condition (left). Nigel destroys the wings after the decision to replace them (centre). And Jon attaches the new wings to the Q-Pod (right).
Cameras and Gimbals...
The whole purpose of a flight with the Q-200 Agri-Pro is to acquire high quality images in visible light and near infrared. Therefore, cameras and camera gimbals went through a careful assessment and a functional test procedure.
After thorough testing and cleaning the Dole cameras are still classed as working perfectly – a testament to their design and protection. Only a new gimbal was required to continue to balance the camera movement during flight.
Testing and protocoling the functionality of the near infrared camera.
After two days of checks and an overhaul the UAV is ready for airtesting.
Before "Agila" can fly back to the Philippines, it has to pass our standard airtest for maiden UAVs, including take-off and parachute landing, flight in different modes (auto, assisted, manual) and several autopilot and telemetry checks. Agila passed all tests with flying colours and is ready to be shipped back to Dole Philippines.
Callum and Cameron doing pre-takeoff checks (left). Callum launching the UAV (right).
The completely overhauled UAV was shipped back to the Philippines on the third working day.
The whole UAV overhaul, from receiving the package through receipt, assessment, repairs, replacements and airtesting took 48 hours – an important factor for a drone that is needed for constant use by the clients. Following documentation and export control the upgraded Q-200 Agri-Pro got repacked to its rugged box and was shipped back, on the third day, via an express UPS service , to the Dole team in Polomolok.
Adam and Ryan prepare the UAV for shipment (left). Carla is waiting for UPS to pick up the box in front of our workshop (centre). Box is handed over to UPS (right).
Providing a fast turnaround comes with complications. One of the biggest is the weather and airtesting in whatever conditions the British weather throws at us. During this maintenance schedule we were experiencing unusually high winds for our late spring period.
At times like this we just get on and manage….. there is no time in our busy airtesting schedule to wait for ideal flying days and the QuestUAV fleet are designed to cope with all manner of weather conditions.
The image shows just how windy this day was. It has been worse!