Future Concepts XXIII - UAV, UAS, and MAV Unmanned Aircraft

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The data from these several sensors may be processed and integrated to provide enhanced information, or information which could not be obtained using a single type of sensor. For example, images from an optical light colour video camera, from a thermal heat imaging camera and possibly a radar scanner system, may be fused together. Thus the thermal image and radar image may add information hidden to the optical image.

The optical colour image will add discrimination, resolution and contrast not available from the reduced contrast of the thermal image or the lower resolution of the radar image. Also, the reduction in performance of one sensor under differing light or atmospheric conditions of precipitation or pollution, may be compensated for by the complementary sensors. The images, or other data, obtained by these systems are processed into a form in which they can be transmitted via the down-link to the control station or other destination as appropriate. A number of different types of payloads appropriate for carriage by UAV are described in Chapter 8.

The task of the aircraft is primarily to carry the mission payload to its point of application, but it also has to carry the subsystems necessary for it to operate. These sub-systems include the communications link, stabilisation and control equipment, power plant and fuel, electrical power supplies; and basic airframe structure and mechanisms needed for the aircraft to be launched, to carry out its mission, and to be recovered.

The endurance and range requirement will determine the fuel load to be carried. Achievement of a small fuel load and maximised performance will require an efficient propulsion system and optimum airframe aerodynamics.

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Introduction to Unmanned Aircraft Systems UAS 11 The speed requirement will determine more fundamentally whether a lighter-than-air aircraft, or a heavier-than-air fixed-wing, rotary-wing, or convertible aircraft configuration, is used. A long endurance and long range mission for military surveillance will predominately require a high-aspect ratio fixed-wing aircraft operating at high altitude.

It will be necessary for it to take off from a long paved runway to achieve the high lift-off speed demanded by the high wing-loading required for low aerodynamic drag. They are likely to have low aspect ratio wings and either take off from a long runway or be air-launched. Several military roles will either need, or greatly benefit from, the ability to hover or fly very slowly, e.

In addition any application, military or civilian, where operation from off-board ship or from restricted sites is required will probably benefit from a vertical take-off and landing capability in the aircraft. Also, within its speed range, because of its high rotor-blade loading it is the most insensitive of all aircraft types to air turbulence.

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The addition of a wing can give a helicopter a speed of over kt. This is achieved by lifting off with the rotor s horizontal, but tilting them into a vertical plane to become propellers for cruise flight with the weight of the aircraft being borne upon wings. These configurations suffer a payload weight penalty compared with either a helicopter or fixed-wing aircraft. Another rotary-wing configuration of interest is the autogyro, which attempts to dispense with the transmission system of the helicopter in the interest of reducing complexity, but it suffers in that it cannot hover.

However, it is able to fly considerably more slowly than can fixed-wing aircraft. These different aircraft configurations are discussed in more detail in Chapter 3. For fully autonomous operation, i. In the past, this meant that the aircraft had to carry a sophisticated, complex, expensive and heavy inertial navigation system INS , or a less sophisticated INS at lower cost, etc. This was achieved by radio tracking or by the recognition of geographical features. Nowadays, the availability of a global positioning system GPS which accesses positional information from a system of earth-satellites, has eased this problem.


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The GPSs now available are extremely light in 12 Unmanned Aircraft Systems weight, compact and quite cheap, and give continuous positional update so that only a very simple form of INS is now normally needed. For nonautonomous operation, i. These methods include: a Radar tracking. Here the aircraft is fitted with a transponder which responds to a radar scanner emitting from the CS, so that the aircraft position is seen on the CS radar display in bearing and range. Here the radio signal carrying data from the aircraft to the CS is tracked in bearing from the CS, whilst its range is determined from the time taken for a coded signal to travel between the aircraft and the CS.

Here, with the computer-integration of velocity vectors and time elapsed, the aircraft position may be calculated. If the mission is over land and the aircraft carries a TV camera surveying the ground, its position can be confirmed by relating visible geographical features with their known position on a map.

However, in the interests of ease of operation, it is always desirable for the system to be as automatic, if not autonomous, as possible. This will be required for those air vehicles which do not have a vertical flight capability, nor have access to a runway of suitable surface and length. This usually takes the form of a ramp along which the aircraft is accelerated on a trolley, propelled by a system of rubber bungees, by compressed air or by rocket, until the aircraft has reached an airspeed at which it can sustain airborne flight. This also will usually be required for aircraft without a vertical flight capability, unless they can be brought down onto terrain which will allow a wheeled or skid-borne run-on landing.

It usually takes the form of a parachute, installed within the aircraft, and which is deployed at a suitable altitude over the landing zone. In addition, a means of absorbing the impact energy is needed, usually comprising airbags or replaceable frangible material. An alternative form of recovery equipment, sometimes used, is a large net or, alternatively, a carousel apparatus into which the aircraft is flown and caught. An ingenious version of the latter is described in Chapter Unless the aircraft is lightweight enough to be man-portable, a means is required of transporting the aircraft back to its launcher.

The transmission medium is most usually at radio frequency, but possible alternatives may be by light in the form of a laser beam or via optical fibres. The tasks of the data links are usually as follows: a Uplink i. The level of electrical power, complexity of the processing and the antennae design and therefore the complexity, weight and cost of the radio communications will be determined by: i the range of operation of the air vehicle from the transmitting station; ii the sophistication demanded by transmission-down of the payload and housekeeping data; iii the need for security.

For example, although the communications radio sub-system itself forms an interface between the CS and the air vehicle, the elements of it installed in both the CS and air vehicle must operate to the same protocols and each interface with their respective parent sub-systems in a compatible manner. It is likely that the UAV system may be operated by the services both military and civilian in different countries which may require different radio frequencies or security coding.

Therefore it should be made possible for different front-end modules to be fitted into the same type of CS and air vehicle when the UAV system is acquired by various different operators. This requires the definition of the common interfaces to be made. That is, it may require tasking from a source external to the system and report back to that or other external source.

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Similarly, in civilian operations such as fire patrol, the operators in the CS may be tasked from Fire Brigade Headquarters to move the air vehicle to new locations. It ranges from operating and maintenance manuals, through tools and spares to special test equipment and power supplies. Therefore transport means must be provided for all the sub-systems discussed above. This may vary from one vehicle required to contain and transport a UAV system using a small, lightweight vertical take-off and landing VTOL aircraft which needs no launch, recovery or retrieval equipment and is operated by say, two crew, to a system using a large and heavier ramp-launched aircraft which needs all the sub-systems listed, may have to be dismantled and reassembled between flights, and may require, say, ten crew and six large transport vehicles.

Even UAV systems operating from fixed bases may have specific transport requirements. A system which has been designed with only low-altitude, temperate conditions in mind, will fail in more extreme conditions of altitude, temperature, solar radiation, precipitation and humidity. It is also necessary to recognise the impact that the UAV system may have on the environment.

This can be very significant, though with different accent, in both civilian and military roles. It is therefore necessary to consider all of these aspects carefully at the outset of the system design, and these factors Introduction to Unmanned Aircraft Systems UAS 15 are discussed more fully in Chapter 2, Section 2. Frampton and J.

Part One The Design of UAV Systems 2 Introduction to Design and Selection of the System The design of most aircraft-based systems, if not of others, will usually be considered to begin in three phases: a the conceptual phase, b the preliminary design phase, c the detail design phase. Other phases follow after initial manufacture. These include the design of modifications during development and subsequent modifications or improvements whilst the system is in service.

Alternatively the product may be one which is thought to open up an entirely new market. In whichever category the proposed product falls, it is necessary to establish its commercial viability at this early stage. To that end an initial outline design will be made from which the performance and costs of developing, manufacturing and operating the product can be predicted.

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Techniques of operational analysis, cost-benefit and economic studies should be used to answer these questions. Opportunity may be taken during this phase to carry out wind-tunnel testing of an aircraft model to confirm the theoretical aerodynamic calculations or to determine if any modification to the aircraft shape, etc.

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This would expedite the design in the next phase. It may be decided that the project is only viable if certain new technology is proven. This may apply, of course, to any of the elements of the system, whether it be, for example, in air vehicle control or navigation, or in computation, communications or displays, etc. Therefore a phase of research may be conducted and the decision to proceed or not with the programme will await the outcome. Optimisation trade-offs within the system will be made to maximise the overall performance of the system over its projected operational roles and atmospheric conditions.

The phase concludes with a comprehensive definition of the design of the complete system with its interfaces and a system specification. The costing of the remaining phases of the programme and the costs of system operation will have been re-examined in greater detail and the decision to proceed further should be revisited. So far in the programme, a relatively small number of expert staff and limited facilities will have been employed. Therefore, costs will have been relatively low. It is tempting for the programme management to urge over-hasty completion of this phase, but it could be a false economy.

Careful consideration of options and the addressing of such matters as ease of construction, reliability, maintenance and operation at this stage can save much time and cost in correcting mistakes in the more expensive later phases of the programme.


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  • There will follow a more detailed analysis of the aerodynamics, dynamics, structures and ancillary systems of the aircraft and of the layout and the mechanical, electronic and environmental systems of the control station and any other sub-systems such as the launch and recovery systems. Test Schedules will be drafted for the test phases and initial thoughts applied to the contents of the operating and maintenance manuals.

    These are principally the experience gained in their operations by the military, the agreement with airworthiness authorities on regulations for their operation, and possible adaptation of military system production and support facilities.