Nowadays, mobile applications demand, in large extent, an improvement in the overall efficiency of systems, in order to diversify the number of applications. For unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), an enhancement in their performance translates into larger payloads and range. These factors encourage the search for novel propulsion architectures, which present high synergy with the airframe and remaining components and subsystems, to enable a better UAV performance. In this context, technologies broadly examined are distributed propulsion (DP), thrust split (TS), and boundary layer ingestion (BLI), which have shown potential opportunities to achieve ambitious performance targets (ACARE 2020, NASA N+3). The present work briefly describes these technologies and shows preliminary results for a conceptual propulsion configuration using a set number of propulsors. Furthermore, the simulation process for a blended wing body (BWB) airframe using computational fluid dynamics (CFD) OpenFOAM software is described. The latter is examined due to its advantages in terms of versatility and cost, compared with licensed CFD software. This work does not intend to give a broad explanation of each of the topics, but rather to give an insight into the state of the art in modeling of distributed propulsion systems and CFD simulation using open-source software implemented in UAVs.
Part of the book: Aerial Robots
The inspection of wetlands in the Ecuadorian highlands has gained importance due to the environmental issues linked to the growth of human activities and the expansion of the agricultural and livestock frontiers. In this sense, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) have been amply used in monitoring activities such as the supervision of threatened ecosystems, where cyclic measurements and high-resolution imagery are needed. However, the harsh operating conditions in the Andean highlands and sensitive ecosystem restrictions demand efficient propulsion configurations with low environmental impact. Electrical distributed propulsion (EDP) systems have surged as a forefront alternative since they offer benefits in both the propulsive and aerodynamic performance of fixed-wing UAVs. In this chapter, an EDP system is sized for a design point at the Andean operating conditions. Thereafter, two propulsion configurations were established based on off-the-shelf components, and their performance was characterized through analytical approaches. These results highlight the trends in power consumption and performance when the number of propulsors is increased. A significant contribution of this work is to exhibit important patterns in the performance of electric propulsion by using commercial components, and to set the operating limitations that can be further explored for analogous configurations in larger UAVs.
Part of the book: Propulsion Systems