Innovative supercharger design helps maintain engine power at higher altitudes
(Cambridge, UK, June 9, 2009) -- Plextek, the Cambridge-based electronics and communications design consultancy has launched an advanced Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) UAV engine that weighs up to 30% less than current solutions in its class. Traditionally UAVs have required a larger engine to cope with power loss at higher altitude. Plextek's innovative solution uses a supercharger, traditionally found on manned aircraft, to maintain engine power at higher altitude.
As part of the project Plextek 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 10,000 ft. They looked at existing UAV engines and the problem of losing power at higher altitude, noting how larger aircraft use forced induction to compensate. The resulting Plextek solution produces the same performance at 20,000 ft as it does at sea level.
Plextek's 'off the shelf' solution weighs just 13kg, a considerable improvement over current normally aspirated engines of equivalent high altitude performance. The engine is also designed to fit in a streamlined fuselage of a 10" (254mm) diameter tube which is ideal for MALE UAVs.
"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," said Dr. Mike Roberts, Senior Project Consultant, Defence Group, Plextek. "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."
The UAV engine was designed by Plextek's Defence Group, which is experienced in aeronautical engineering and the design of defence and aerospace electronics. Plextek's team of consultants combine extensive expertise in software and hardware design, research and development of unmanned air systems, air vehicle propulsion, system integration, simulation and modeling and prototype trials and demonstrations.
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