GA-ASI and Conflux Technology Partner to Develop Heat Exchanger for Remote Aircraft
Denrie Caila Perez posted on May 20, 2020 |
GA-ASI enlists Conflux for its additive manufacturing expertise for a new line of RPAS.
GA-ASI’s MQ-9B SkyGuardian. (Photo courtesy of General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc.)
GA-ASI’s MQ-9B SkyGuardian. (Photo courtesy of General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc.)

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI) recently announced a partnership with additive manufacturing company Conflux Technology to develop an all-new heat exchanger part for GA-ASI’s latest line of Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS). Conflux will be contributing primarily toward the design process, aiming to optimize the RPA performance through additive manufacturing.

“Fundamental efficiency gains require heat transfer innovations. In Conflux, we have a highly innovative engineering team that blends first principles thermo-fluid dynamics with design creativity and additive manufacturing process expertise,” said Michael Fuller of Conflux Technology. “Conflux heat exchangers derive their performance from highly complex geometries enabled by additive manufacturing. Our scientists and engineers, alongside their GA-ASI counterparts, will now develop heat exchange applications to improve fundamental efficiencies for GA-ASI’s RPA systems.”

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) such as RPAs typically use traditional circulating glycol or water heat exchangers to cool their engines. However, for UAVs to be able to transfer waste heat, air must be forced through their tightly spaced cooling fins. To achieve the desired cooling effect, the finned metal heat exchanger needs to be larger. Consequently, low heat density also reduces maximum altitude heat transfer, which also creates drag for the aircraft.

A droplet heat exchanger (DHX) is currently being explored as an alternative by numerous developers. With a DHX, circulating liquid is sprayed to create a dense droplet field in the airstream—which directly transfers into the air from the cooling liquid reservoir. This means a higher thermal contact area, a lower pressure drop, and a greater heat exchange dynamic range, even at high altitudes. In addition to that, drag is significantly reduced with a DHX.

This kind of design for heat exchangers has been a subject of interest for researchers and might also be something to look forward to with GA-ASI and Conflux’s latest collaboration.

GA-ASI has expressed that Conflux’s expertise will allow for “enhanced endurance and lower manufacturing cost, as well more flexibility in our product design and integration.” The Australian government has already selected GA-ASI’s MQ-9B SkyGuardian as an addition to the Australian Defence Force (ADF) under Project Air 7003.

For more information, visit GA-ASI’s website here.

For more news and stories, check out this how additive manufacturing will impact the next generation of aerospace here.

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