© Eurac Research/Annelie Bortolotti
Environmental conditions have a great influence on aircraft performance. Thrust reduction with altitude and temperature increase is a well-known problem in the aviation industry. For commercial multirotor (UAVs) a systematic approach on performance varying environmental conditions is still an open research field.
Many of the existing applications designed for UAVs (e.g. precision agriculture, delivery of instruments or medical supplies) have not been fully exploited by the market so far. This is due to the lack of existing knowledge about flight under variable weather conditions. A bias in the existing tests has been the non-reproducibility of the same climatic conditions.
The UAV industry has recently started to perform environmental test and provide information to the end users, revealing growing interest in a more systematic approach to quantify performance according to weather conditions. Flight tests in a climate-controlled facility would give potential to improve UAV operations.
In the past automotive facilities were exploited giving potential to perform flight test inside a wide-temperature-controlled area: no standards for UAV testing were defined and activities were limited to the effect of wind and temperature. Pressure influence on rotor and overall UAV performance still remain unexplored due to lacks of dedicated hypobaric infrastructures. Automotive climatic wind tunnels are not suitable for these purposes as not designed for low pressure conditions; hypobaric medical facilities do not provide a wide area for flight tests. In the next few years, dedicated environmental facilities will play a crucial role for UAV industry development.
The primary aim of project DronEx is to establish an environmental testing facility for the UAV industry.
Several subtopics have been covered by the project activities: aero dynamical effect (change of thrust depending on air pressure and temperature), numerical validation of experimental results and icing phenomena.
The consolidation of South Tyrolean UAV industrial sector is a crucial goal of DronEx: local companies have been involved in the full process of topic identification, knowledge development and knowledge transfer.
Finally yet importantly, our project results will facilitate the development of UAV design and safety while taking into account weather variability influence to improve flight stability and controllability.