Browse Publications Technical Papers 2010-01-1799

Air-Launched Expendable Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems: Increasing Power and Extending Endurance to Meet Operational Needs 2010-01-1799

The Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) has driven the requirement and technology development of expendable, air-launched, Small Unmanned Aircraft System (SUAS) for the past six years. As the Air Force lead command for SUAS, AFSOC intends to use this capability to extend the range of on-board sensors, see below the weather, track multiple targets, increase target acquisition accuracy and provide direct support to ground teams. Today, state of the art technology for Group 1 (0-20 lbs) and Group 2 SUAS (21 - 55 lbs), provides approximately 25 - 60 minutes of endurance with conventional lithium ion / lithium polymer batteries. However, to make air-launched expendable SUAVs viable for multiple mission scenarios, technology must be developed to allow for a mission endurance of a minimum of four hours. Additionally, Size, Weight And Power (SWAP) considerations challenge even the best solution when trying to provide up to 150W for peak consumption. Complicating this challenge is the requirement to develop power solutions that do not produce potential explosive or environmental hazards while system is on-board aircraft or in storage. This paper presents a notional concept of employment for expendable air launched SUAVs coupled with a relevant example of state-of-the-art SUAS technology. The end goal will highlight realistic technology requirements for industry to develop an optimized system engineering design in the next two years that combines current cutting edge technology (i.e. super-capacitors, nano/micro-fuel cells, hybrid solutions and traditional batteries solutions) with industry safety standards for effective mission accomplishment. This end solution should not only extend the duration of the SUAS, but also address the growing need for more power and how to efficiently harvest thermal energy produced by the system.


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