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Design, build and test an airframe that explores the use of distributed electric propulsion
Group Members
Marco Begozzi, James Cushway, Peter Griffiths, Hoong Kurt Looi, Harry Wilde, Jamie Woolnough
Professor Keith Towell
Environmental concerns associated with the emission of greenhouse gases and pollutants from the aviation sector, has led to the creation of new, efficient electric design concepts. One example is distributed propulsion, which also provides aerodynamic and structural performance benefits. Furthermore, the use of distributed propulsion on UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) provides a versatile mix of both multi-rotor and fixedwing capabilities, with a widened flight envelope showcasing a broad range of cruise speeds. This is ideal for search-and-rescue operations or reconnaissance, where slow cruise over the target and extended range from the take-off location are important factors.

The distribution of propellers along the wingspan acts to increase the local velocity over the wing, increasing the lift for a given cruise speed. The aim of this project was to design a UAV to take advantage of this performance gain, achieved through the design and implementation of Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) optimised high-lift devices. Further benefits include fail-safe redundancy in the instance of a motor loss and short take-off and landing capability. An airbrake design is integrated to provide glide slope control without affecting throttle settings and therefore lift production when headed on a descent path. Autopilot and data logging are further proposed to aid in UAV based missions.

The design relied significantly upon iterative computational modelling of aircraft surfaces, CFD and structural analysis, leading to a manufactured prototype within the required budget. Wind tunnel testing proved the desired flight concepts, such as the increased lift production and high-lift device performance, further accompanied by successful performances during final flight testing.
Test flight of prototype aircraft.
Exploded model of prototype system.