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for the Shell Innovation Award
The design of a compact tube launched unmanned aerial vehicle for search and rescue, detection and surveillance
Group Members
Mamede Broa Fernandes, Olly Collet, Robert Ezigbo, Matthew House, Victor Segarra Beltran, Robin Vienney
Dr András Sóbester
Carbinium Engineering, 3D Hubs, Graphite AM, NJO Sails
In an era where electronic warfare and the use of drones take an increasing part of the military market, it is necessary for companies to develop innovative products to stay competitive. Ultra-Electronics sees, in this market, an opportunity to adapt their tube-launched sonobuoys into tube-launched UAVs capable of working together for a range of missions, which could include search and rescue, submarine detection and surveillance. Tubelaunched UAVs offer a compact aerial capacity to military forces, which can be embarked and deployed from ships, helicopters, planes and larger drones. Such UAVs already exist for A-Size sonobuoy form factors, but the prototype developed during this project is the world’s first G-Size Tube Launched UAV. The aim of the project is to understand and evaluate their potential performance and capabilities.

Starting from a broad design brief, the evaluation of several concepts led to the development of a 2kg folding wing solution. The final product took several iterations and modifications, due to size constraints, centre of gravity control for stability and manufacturing capabilities. The use of computational analyses in FEA and CFD supported the calculations, geometry and material selection. The project required intensive detailed design and the elaboration of complex and robust mechanisms for the full packing and deployment of wings, tail, stabilisers and propellers. The project led to the start of a potential intensive flight test campaign, during which the engineers will be able to validate design features and improve others. The project shows the promising future of micro UAVs for use in the military.
Exploded detail view of tail chasis.
UAV in folded configuration.
Ratchet detail in open position.
Prototype UAV flight testing. Top Exploded detail view of tail chasis. Bottom UAV in folded configuration.
Exploded view of UAV.