Application of a ground effect UAV for remote submarine sensing
Group Members
John Bull, Luke George, Jan Glodowski, Devon Jones, Georges Nayfe, Sze Long Shum
Dr Kamal Djidjeli, Professor Keith Towell
For fixed-wing aircraft, ground effect is the increased lift and decreased aerodynamic drag that an aircraft's wings generate when they are close to a fixed surface. Ground effect vehicles have been used for human and cargo transport, ofr example in aircraft like the Airfish-8 and the Russian Ekranoplan. This project has utilised ground effect in the design, build and test of an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) for the modern-day battlefield.

Naval battle groups currently deploy helicopters and Reaper drones with magnetic anomaly detector sensor arrays fitted to scan surrounding waters for hostile submarines. This technology has a limited range of 500m from the aircraft, therefore the use of ground effect is intended to increase the maximum depth of detection. Additionally, the UAV has been designed for flight in-and-out of ground effect, allowing it to be deployed from and return safely to the deck of a naval vessel. The ability to be hydrodynamically buoyant allows the UAV to land on the surface of the ocean if it picks up a weak trace requiring further identification; future development of this project would identify plausible counter measures the host vessel could remotely deploy.

Simulation software was used extensively throughout the design process to analyse performance of the aircraft in-and-out of ground effect, with Finite Element Analysis (FEA) used for structural simulation and vessel hull design and analysis softwrae for hydrodynamic simulation. Three iteratively designed half-scale models were manufactured and adapted for use within the wind tunnel and towing tank to provide validation of the computational data. The final design utilises a trimaran configuration with one central hull and two outriggers, Anhedral-Dihedral wings and twin tractor propulsion units blow over the dual stabiliser tail-plane setup.
UAV final design
CFD – Vortex tacking analysis


CFD – Static pressure plot