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