UAV engine weighs 'up to 30% less' than current solutions

Plextek has launched a medium altitude long endurance (MALE) UAV engine which it says weighs up to 30% less than current solutions in its class.

Weighing 13kg, it uses a supercharger, traditionally found on manned aircraft, to maintain engine power at higher altitude. Traditionally, engines for MALE UAVs have required a larger engine to cope with power loss with altitude.

As part of the project, the Cambridge based electronics and communications design consultancy liaised with Giles Cardozo, the engineer who invented and piloted one of two Para-motor aircraft that flew over Mt. Everest, smashing the existing world altitude record by more than 10,000ft. They looked at existing UAV engines and the problem of losing power at higher altitude, noting how larger aircraft use forced induction to compensate. Plextek says that the new solution produces the same performance at 20,000ft as it does at sea level.

The engine is designed to fit in a streamlined fuselage of a 10in diameter tube which is ideal for MALE UAVs.

Dr Mike Roberts, senior project consultant, Defence Group, Plextek, said: "As you go higher the air gets thinner and there is less oxygen, resulting in some engines losing up to 50% of their power. Our supercharger compensates for this. The supercharger is part of a fully automatic altitude compensation system that maintains the same air pressure at 20,000 ft and hence performance as at sea level. No other engine in this class can boast the same level of performance with such a low weight."

Chris Shaw

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