A big part of the Houston Spaceport project is offering a place and resources to develop the technology of the future.
Recently, Intuitive Machines — the first company based at the Spaceport’s location at Ellington Airport — offered a glimpse of that kind of forward thinking when it offered a demonstration of its new tethered drone technology.
With the OSPREI security and observation program, the company is marketing the drones for a variety of uses, such as monitoring security at public events, surveying refineries for damage, helping firefighters assess a burning house, and providing Wi-Fi and cellphone service after a major disaster.
GPS ensures the drone stays within a 30-foot radius of its starting point, and a tether provides power that can keep it hovering indefinitely while also ensuring the secure transmission of data. One pilot uses a video game controller to direct the attached camera and another uses computer software to determine the drone's height. But largely, the drone flies itself and automatically compensates for wind, altitude changes and camera motion.
The demonstration was given from Intuitive Machines’ new location at the Houston Spaceport, where it is the first tenant in a building that is designed to help develop a cluster of aerospace companies near the spaceport.
It was this relationship with the Houston Airports that ultimately led Intuitive Machines to tethered drones about six months ago. Houston Airports sought a better surveillance system for airport property, and Arturo Machuca, general manager of Ellington Airport and the Houston Spaceport, said, “They brought that vision to reality.”
With the new technology, Intuitive Machines can provide images, maps and videos. It also has algorithms that scan data for changes, identifying differences such as corrosion or a hole in the fence that wasn't previously there.