The AEROLYNX is a fixed-wing unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that will be used in the location and recovery of victims of natural disasters. Current search and rescue (SAR) methods require a lot of manpower and is oftentimes expensive and dangerous. With this new technology, SAR teams will be provided the information they need to safely locate victims in the shortest time possible.
Our initial design focuses on disasters that can occur here in the Rocky Mountains, mainly forest fires and avalanches, however future goals are to make this aircraft versatile in most SAR scenarios.
What We Are Building
Our Mechanical Engineering senior design team at the University of Colorado Denver will be building a fully functional aircraft and testing it in several natural landscapes around Colorado in March 2017. The UAV will be designed and built at the University of Colorado Denver by using advanced engineering techniques, supplemented with computer design and analysis. Our project aims to raise enough money through Kickstarter and private companies to build a prototype AEROLYNX aircraft.
Risks and challenges
As with any other engineering project, failure is always a possibility. However, this can be mitigated through hard work and a meticulous attention to detail. We have researched the various subsystems of our aircraft thoroughly and have sought out several professionals in the avionic field to aid in the design and production of our project. Among some of the experts helping us, we have several previous Boeing associates who specialize in aerodynamics, composite layup, aircraft manufacturing, and general subsystems. We also have the aid of a senior official of an electric motor company who specializes in motor selection and controls systems interfacing while a local RC aircraft organization has also offered to train us in RC aircraft controls and flight.
However, just because the experts are helping us doesn't mean that problems won't surface. Our team will run into obstacles on the project, and here are a few that we already see:
The biggest challenge with the aerodynamic design of the aircraft is streamlined airflow across the fuselage and back along the tail. Getting streamlined airflow requires multiple iterations of the 3D digital models of the fuselage and boom. Once a model is created, it undergoes Computational Fluid Dynamic (CFD) Analysis to see where any turbulent flow or eddy currents are happening. In these particular areas, designs can be optimized to reduce these eddies, which cause excess drag.To mitigate the risk of aerodynamic failure, we will be conducting wind tunnel testing to confirm our numerical solutions with experimental results and comparing the two methodologies. This will help us fine-tune our aerodynamic design to become as efficient as possible.
Another challenge with the structural design is the manufacturing aspect of all the components. The fuselage and boom design have relatively complex geometries. These designs will have to be constructed from carbon fiber and fiberglass layups. Getting these geometries correct will involve molds that have very small tolerances and the composite lay ups need to be done such that the surface roughness is as minimal as possible and that a surface coating may be applied to eradicate any surface discrepancies. To achieve these tolerances, we have employed the assistance of industry experts to provide a process and step-by-step guidance to achieve these tolerances and to achieve a well-done composite lay-up.
Choosing the right motor is a balancing act between power and weight. You want a motor that will provide enough thrust to get off the ground, however it needs to be lightweight so you don't weigh the aircraft down. To ensure that the right motor is chosen, thrust calculations, power requirements, and dimensions must be known. When choosing a motor most companies give a data chart, however these charts may not represent the motor running in flight conditions. To ensure that our motor is to standard, a testing fixture will be made to mount the motor for power and thrust testing. The battery will also be tested in conjunction with the motor to test for optimal energy flow to the motor.
The calibration of a controls system is one of the most challenging aspects of this project. During flight, if the controls are not finely tuned, the plane would not have stability in flight and could crash. We plan on combating this by doing extensive testing on the plane and its moving components (ground testing) and reaching out to our industry professionals for aid. With this, we can avoid the issue of the control systems not reacting properly on the ground and during flight.
Any additional obstacles will be detailed in the Updates section of this webpage.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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