Double the Flying Time of a Tube-launched UAV

Abstract PDF: 

The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base conducts experiments and oversees research in the best interest of national defense. Over the last few years more and more research has become devoted to unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). AFRL has specifically been looking into Tube Launched UAVs. These aircraft are launched from a plane out of a Common Launch Tube (CLT). The Coyote UAV, designed by Sensintel, is one such UAV, and once launched can fly for 30-60 minutes. The purpose of this project is to design the wings for a tube launched UAV that will allow the aircraft to fly for at least twice this period.

In order to increase the flight time this dramatically, the team primarily focused not on making the wings more aerodynamic, but designing a wing that could have a very large surface area, and still fold down to fit in the CLT efficiently. This will allow the UAV to carry a larger battery and dramatically increase the flight time. The team has explored several novel folding wing concepts, but the most promising concept is a wing that collapses in the chord direction and lays against the fuselage. This is achieved with two parallel folding mechanisms as the structure of the wing, as shown in the figure above.

Actual flight tests were beyond the scope of this project, but based on an aerodynamic analysis, this design could allow the UAV to fly for up to 3 hours- more than double the flight time of the Coyote UAV. This is very promising, however more work needs to be done before it can be implemented. Some form of actuation must be utilized so that the wings will deploy upon leaving the CLT. Also, this design requires a compliant skin to cover the open space when the wing is extended. Preliminary testing shows that a rubber material works well as a skin, but further testing may be required.

School Year (term): 
Air Force Research Laboratory
Team Name: 
Ever Flight
Josh Redding
Team Members: 
Quentin Allen, Douglas Hubbard, Dane Pratt, Nathan Speirs, Nathan Usevitch

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