Design, modelling and measurement of hybrid powerplant for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs)

Glassock, Richard R. (2012) Design, modelling and measurement of hybrid powerplant for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Masters by Research thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


The success or effectiveness for any aircraft design is a function of many trade-offs.

Over the last 100 years of aircraft design these trade-offs have been optimized and dominant aircraft design philosophies have emerged. Pilotless aircraft (or uninhabited airborne systems, UAS) present new challenges in the optimization of their configuration.

Recent developments in battery and motor technology have seen an upsurge in the utility and performance of electric powered aircraft. Thus, the opportunity to explore hybrid-electric aircraft powerplant configurations is compelling. This thesis considers the design of such a configuration from an overall propulsive, and energy efficiency perspective. A prototype system was constructed using a representative small UAS internal combustion engine (10cc methanol two-stroke) and a 600W brushless Direct current (BLDC) motor. These components were chosen to be representative of those that would be found on typical small UAS.

The system was tested on a dynamometer in a wind-tunnel and the results show an improvement in overall propulsive efficiency of 17% when compared to a non-hybrid powerplant. In this case, the improvement results from the utilization of a larger propeller that the hybrid solution allows, which shows that general efficiency improvements are possible using hybrid configurations for aircraft propulsion.

Additionally this approach provides new improvements in operational and mission flexibility (such as the provision of self-starting) which are outlined in the thesis.

Specifically, the opportunity to use the windmilling propeller for energy regeneration was explored. It was found (in the prototype configuration) that significant power (60W) is recoverable in a steep dive, and although the efficiency of regeneration is low, the capability can allow several options for improved mission viability.

The thesis concludes with the general statement that a hybrid powerplant improves the overall mission effectiveness and propulsive efficiency of small UAS.

Impact and interest:

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ID Code: 61052
Item Type: QUT Thesis (Masters by Research)
Supervisor: Corke, Peter & Gonzalez, Luis F.
Keywords: aircraft, hybrid, propulsion, hybrid-electric, drone, UAV, UAS, engine, propeller, efficiency, performance, mission, take-off, climb, motor, engine, fuel, battery, runway, launcher, VTOL, turbo-electric
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Science & Engineering Faculty
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 01 Jul 2013 23:35
Last Modified: 21 Jun 2017 14:47

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