Flying robots are expected to profoundly change various industries - in particular the land surveying and the industrial inspection businesses should be amongst the early users.
However, there are still limiting factors keeping users from adopting this new technology. First, quadcopters exhibit poor flight performance in terms of the distance they are able to cover, due to their energy intensive operation. Second, currently available fixed-wing planes are able to cover longer ranges, but they are challenging to maneuver autonomously and require infrastructure such as runways, catapults, nets and large open spaces.
At Wyss Zurich, engineers, scientists and programmers are developing a completely new aircraft design that will overcome these challenges. The project evolved from years of research conducted at the Autonomous Systems Lab of ETH Zurich, who are leaders in the field of flying robots. This novel type of Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), called Wingtra, combines the advantage of a traditional airplane and a helicopter. Just like an airplane, the wing will generate lift in forward flight, thereby allowing longer distances to be covered and heavier payloads to be carried farther. The main handling burdens will be overcome by their ability to autonomously Vertically Take-Off and Land (VTOL).
The easy handling of the device will enable even untrained personnel to operate Wingtra and the widespread adoption of such aerial robots. This disruptive aircraft design promises to dramatically improve inspection efficiency and reduce costs of linear infrastructure assets such as pipelines, railroad tracks or high-voltage lines. Furthermore Wingtra could also be of great value to the farming industry in optimizing crop management.
Download Wingtra fact sheet
Gebert Rüf Stiftung
Basil Weibel initialized a research project at the Autonomous Systems Lab during his bachelor studies at ETH Zurich, which later on led to the development of Wingtra. Together with his cofounders, he received a grant from the Gebert Rüf Stiftung to develop the proof of concept. He is now leading the Wingtra project, which aims to translate this proof of concept into a marketable product. The Wingtra team has also secured additional funding by private investors to further speed up the product development. Before coming to ETH Zurich, Basil obtained two top tier BAs from the University of St. Gallen (Switzerland) in both Economics and International Affairs (2010). His University education is complemented by a Master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from ETH Zurich (2015). His broad educational background prepared him well for an entrepreneurial career. Basil is passionate about technologies that alter transaction costs on a large scale.
Maximilian is leading the software development of the Wingtra project, which he co-founded. He and his team successfully demonstrated a proof of concept fully autonomous vertical takeoff and landing, fixed-wing robot. He is now leading the development of Wingtra's control, state estimation and software architecture, towards an industrial grade. Previously he co-founded the Kleine Freiheit café with Elias Kleimann. Notably, he managed the design and the building of the open air café from a retired cargo container, which was the basis for the project. In total he submitted three successful building requests to the government over the last three years. Maximilian holds a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from ETH Zurich. During his studies, he obtained a merit-based scholar (“sdw - Stiftung deutscher Wirtschaft”).
Elias Kleimann co-founded the Wingtra project. He is leading the business development and is responsible for fundraising. Prior founding Wingtra, he gained entrepreneurial experience by co-founding “Kleine Freiheit” café, a park revival project. In this role, he was responsible for business development, which included communication with stakeholders (i.e., city governmental organizations and neighboring institutions), management of a successful crowdfunding campaign and organizing the accounting. Together with Maximilian Boosfeld, he employs six people who run the café. Elias obtained a bachelor's degree in business (ZHAW, Switzerland) and started a continuing education program in economics at the University of Bern in 2012. During his bachelor studies in business, he worked 60% for IBM Switzerland as a trainee in different positions. Elias left his continuing studies in economics to pursue his entrepreneurial projects.