The design, function and size of unmanned air vehicles (UAVs) vary widely from one manufacturer to another, as do the materials used. Because this is an emerging technology, many engineers are exploring alternative ways of building these aircraft and piloting them.
Performance characteristics of such UAV systems vary substantially. The systems commercially available at present are mostly limited in size, weight and payload capacity. Electric powered UAV craft have a limited range and endurance and the payload varies from a few grams to kilograms.
If the performance of these aircraft is to improve, there needs to be a significant increase in battery power or a reduction in weight to improve efficiency. In addition, the materials currently in use in manufacture need to be more robust and multi-functional.
TWI has begun research into both the power requirements and the design techniques of UAVs. The aim of the work is to improve performance including incorporation of state-of-the-art battery and fuel cell technology and the introduction of innovative materials systems. Results from this work will also be applicable in related fields such as remotely operated vehicles (ROVs).