Extended Endurance Unmanned Aerial Vehicle via Structural Electrical Power Storage and Energy Generation Devices 2020-01-0041
As the application of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) have increased in the military, commercial and private sectors, special attention has been focused on improving upon high altitude long endurance (HALE) performance. Therefore, under a multi-year, multi-discipline senior project team comprised of Aerospace Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Computer Engineering, Mechanical engineering, and Chemical Engineering undergraduate teams, investigative and experimental research has begun into the substitution of various aircraft structural components with power storage and power generation devices used also as structure to improve flight endurance and performance capabilities of solar powered UAVs. One viable solution may be found in the reduction of the amount of parasitic weight due to the required power systems on board these types of aircraft. These power systems are usually found in the form of energy storage devices such as lithium polymer batteries and energy generation devices such as solar cells. This path led to the innovation of the ‘Flying Battery’. The ‘Flying Battery’ integrates various free energy generating devices such as structural solar cells, structural energy storage devices, thermo-electric generators, and vibration induced power generators to create a flying structure that will be more efficient overall. By weighting the design factors for the power systems by their structural strengths and stiffnesses, the power-to-weight ratio of the aircraft may be significantly improved in the long run while also enabling a structure that may withstand the various nominal and off-nominal aerodynamic loading conditions experienced during flight. This paper discusses the mission operations, methods of testing and the progress achieved thus far toward achieving potential endurance and efficiency increases in unmanned aerial vehicles. These will be done through laboratory and eventual model flight experiments of novel structural designs for graphene super-capacitors, solar cells, and other power generation devices.