Operating Equipment for your KingfisherTM Aerostat
- Launchers include all equipment necessary for the safe and efficient operation of the Kingfisher aerostat
- Winch systems range from light and tactical for smaller balloons, to heavy units with more than 2000 pounds of torque
- Tether line options include; synthetic fiber (Spectra, Dyneema,) to powered tether (multiple conductor) to fiber-optic tether
- Deflation devices include; automatic GPS, automatic barometric pressure and operator radio controlled
The Kingfisher launchers are designed from in-house flight experience as well as input from customers that have operated the Kingfisher in varying and challenging conditions. Environments ranging from moving ships, trucks and HMMWVs, austere desert, urban areas, US / Mexican and other borders, and very cold weather and arctic conditions.
The Kingfisher launchers are engineered to provide significant benefits over competing systems. These benefits include reduced maintenance costs, smaller footprint for operations, reduced operators required to manage the aerostat, decreased time for inflation/deflation, faster launch and recovery, and a simplified process for lightly-trained operators.
Key criteria for the Kingfisher aerostat launchers:
- Simple operation
- Completely self-contained. Power generation, batteries, charging, Helium storage for 7+ day operations. (Sized appropriately for the Kingfisher model), payload power via inverter.
- Air-freight cargo and sealed for sea, air and underslung transport. Entire unit is an LD7 cargo pallet. Forklift and sling loading.
- Helium tank pressurization and rapid inflation system.
- Stowable mooring arms. Provides a flat top for stacking units. Arms provide moored transport at up to 45mph.
- Internal lighting and convenient controls for all electrical systems
- Ergonomic and well-labeled subsystems for occasional use operators
There are three stages of flight operations;
- Inflation and deflation
- Launch and Recovery
- All stages of flight are managed on top of the launcher.
-No need to spread a tarp on the ground and manage a large balloon by hand.
- Launcher can be removed from host trailer and deployed from ship, HMMWV, MATV, pickup truck, lorrie or other vehicle.
- Launchers with trailers include operator steps and work areas for easy access to the top of the launcher and bottom of the balloon.
- Temporary payload mount to secure expensive and sensitive equipment.
- Swing-out support arms control the aerostat during inflation/deflation, launch, recovery and mooring.
- Variable speed winch controller. Operating at 24-28 VDC our programmable controller provides soft start, variable speed, soft stop and integral brake. This avoids payload shock when starting and stopping, provides slow speed when operating close to the ground and a magentic brake when power is off. In case of controller failure, simply switch to manual-electric mode to operate winch.
- Standard launcher holds (6) Helium tanks. An additional (4) tanks can be added under the standard version with the expansion module and remains forklift and lift-ring compatible.
- For Kingfisher models larger than 20 feet in diameter, the launcher and tandem-axle trailer are integral and can be transported via ISO 20ft. container.
- Launcher winches are fast when deploying and recovering. Typically from 160 to 220 feet per minute. This reduces the exposure of the aerostat and payload to small arms fire in hostile environments.
At Aerial Products we design what we build, we operate what we design and we fly what we sell. That's why our launchers are built for the specific purpose of safely operating aerostats. From the winch control system to the inflation system, these machines are not manufactured from adapted parts. e.g our competitors use fishing boat winches....
When a full-up launcher is not required, Aerial Products offers low-cost winch solutions for tactical deployments, research and occasional-use missions.
All winches have the following options:
- Variable speed control
- 12vdc or 24vdc operation
- Slip ring for fiber-optic or powered tethers
- Line leveling (large winches only)
- Soft start, soft stop operation
- Wireless operation from up to 3 miles away (not variable speed, but with soft start/stop)
- Magnetic brake, manual pin brake, friction brake, non-reversible gear box
Winch models vary from light-weight tactical with 600 pounds of torque and 150 feet per minute line speed, to the launcher-class models with 2000 pounds of torque and up to 220 feet per minute line speed with integral line-leveling. All winches are designed for variable speed, soft start and soft stop, manual operator-set brakes in addition to electro-magnetic and gear box braking.
Aerostat Tether Line
Tether line strength and fiber type is calcuated by Aerial Products based on the size of the Kingfisher aerostat.There are a number of factors which determine the useful life of a tether. Our winches are specifically designed to ensure we meet the tether manufacturer's requirements for minimum bend radius and other specifications. The tether lines are manufactured by the same company supplying TCom, Lockheed Martin, Northrup Grumman and other leading blimp and aerostat system manufacturers. Their expertise and industry respect is second to none. We stock many types and break strengths. Special orders require 3-4 weeks. Our in-house technicians are able to terminate, test and evaluate and re-splice tether line back to factory specifications.
Tether line break strength, weight and outside diameter
It is important to size the tether to the model Kingfisher aerostat. While weight is the most significant factor, outside diameter is also important. Very long tether lines can create a type of parasite drag on the aerostat that in some cases can exceed the weight of the tether. Wind will influence the flight dynamic of the tether line by exerting force that creates downward pull on the aerostat. Very often we recommend a non-powered tether for flights over 3000 feet AGL due to parasite drag that results from a larger OD. Depending on payload power consumption and mission duration requirements, in certain situations it is more efficient to operate the payload from batteries than to supply power via the tether. An example is a weather instrument package at 5000 feet AGL. With very low power consumption and long flight duration, a smaller Kingfisher can be used when deploying with onboard battery power and a synthetic tether vs. a powered tether.
The following are examples of popular tether types
||Weight per 1000ft
|Spectra, coated, 8 strand, 800lb MBS
|Spectra, coated, 12 strand, 1700lb MBS
|Electro-mechanical, (2) 20 gauge conductor, Spectra, 1200lb MBS
|Electro-mechanical, (2) 20 gauge conductor, Spectra, 2000lb MBS
|EM+Fiber-optic, Single strand fiber, (2) conductor, Spectra, 3000lb MBS
Minimum break strength is based on a working load factor of 25%. Most Aerial Products tethers have been factory tested and verified within the preceding two years. Some within 5 years. Impededance, inductance, insulation voltage and other details are provided upon request.
The Kingfisher aerostat deflation devices have been used not only on Kingfishers, but a number of other aerostats and blimps. Aerial Products has designed their own circuits and software for these devices.
- Up to 12 channels
- Less than 3 minute lock period
- LED confirmation of "home" position
- Distance from home, vertical and horizontal, then trigger after factory set delay
- Factory set to 580mbs (adjustable)
- Pressure accuracy to within 30 feet
- Not succeptible to scrambled or denied GPS signals
- Conditional trigger, time+pressure change
Radio controlled (operator triggered)
- Up to 5 mile range
- Frequency-hopping, Spread-spectrum