Maintaining engine power at higher altitudes

Written by: Chris Shaw | Published:

Cambridge based electronics and communications design consultancy, Plextek, has launched an advanced Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) UAV engine that it says weighs up to 30% less than current solutions in its class.

Traditionally UAVs have required a larger engine to cope with power loss at higher altitude. Plextek says its solution uses a supercharger, traditionally found on manned aircraft, to maintain engine power at higher altitude.

As part of the project, Plextek liaised with Giles Cardozo, the engineer who invented and piloted one of two Para-motor aircraft that flew over Everest, breaking the world altitude record by more than 10,000 ft. The company looked at existing UAV engines and the problem of losing power at higher altitude, noting how larger aircraft use forced induction to compensate. According to the company, the resulting solution produces the same performance at 20,000 ft as it does at sea level.

The engine weighs 13kg and is also designed to fit in a streamlined fuselage of a 10in diameter tube which is ideal for MALE UAVs.

The UAV engine was designed by Plextek's Defence Group, which specialises in aeronautical engineering and the design of defence and aerospace electronics.

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