Engine-in-a-Box Will Change How UAVs are Powered
Kagan Pittman posted on June 18, 2015 |
Literally an engine in a box, the Engine-in-a-Box brings “intelligent” features to UAV engines.

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are becoming more and more popular with the military, thanks to their surveillance and air strike applications. Because of this, it was only a matter of time before UAV engine technology would see an outside-of-the-box design.

Meet the Engine-in-a-Box.

The size of a mini-refrigerator, the Engine-in-a-Box contains a fully-integrated proprietary propulsion system that includes a small gas turbine engine, filters, a 3 kW generator, a control system, an electronic display and a gas tank.

According to UAV Turbines (UAVT), the company that created the Engine-in-a-Box, aircraft propellers can be powered either directly from the gas turbine or electrically with DC motors.

Ranging from 20 hp to 150 hp, the boxed engine is intended for use with Group 3 and 4 UAVs. The U.S. Department of Defense defines these groups to consist of large and larger UAVs capable of around 1,320 lbs in maximum gross takeoff weight with a normal operating altitude of 18,000 ft. (for example, U.S. General Atomics Predator A and B).

First announced in April 2015 by UAVT, the Engine-in-a-Box stands out for more reasons than just its cubic design. "This is an 'intelligent' system," says UAVT senior vice president Fred Frigerio. "Gas turbine engines in UAVs have been complicated to operate, as temperatures and pressures change and different performance is required under changing conditions. All of UAVT's engines start with the touch of a button, and following steps are choreographed by the electronic brain of the control system, guided by input from sensors.”

Once the engine reaches 19,700 rpm, a light on the display panel turns green to alert users, Frigerio explains. Engines in this family will automatically adjust operation to achieve minimal fuel consumption or maximum power response, depending on conditions determined by remote pilots. The engine can even be switched off and restarted remotely at altitude.

As UAVT continues development of its propulsion technology, the Engine-in-a-Box turbo generator will be a test bed for different system configurations as well as an effective demonstrator for key features of the technology.

UAVT will be demonstrating the Engine-in-a-Box for select companies sometime in the near future.

To learn more about UAV Turbines, visit uavturbines.com.

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