The Design of an Uninhabited Air Vehicle for Remote Sensing in the Cryosphere
University of Kansas
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This document summarizes the results of the preliminary design of an Uninhabited Air Vehicle (UAV) for use in Cryospheric research. This includes the development of a mission specification with all related performance requirements. In general, the design mission of this aircraft, named the Meridian, is to takeoff from a remote base camp in either Antarctica or Greenland, fly to some area of interest, acquire data such as ice thickness and surface elevation with ground penetrating radar, then return to base. These types of missions, which to date have been flown with inhabited aircraft, can be described as both dull and dangerous. These are characteristics that support the use of a UAV for this mission. The design of the Meridian is performed in parallel to the development of the primary payload: a ground penetrating Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR). This concurrent system development warranted a certain amount of flexibility in the aircraft design. This led to the development of three candidate configurations, from which the primary configuration was selected and carried through to the more detailed design phases. This process, commonly referred to as Class I and Class II design phases, was used to develop three Class I conceptual configurations, named the Red, White, and Blue designs. The three designs represent three methods of integrating the radar antennas into the aircraft structure. The Red design utilizes a structurally synergistic approach where the antennas are integrated directly into the wing structure. The White design is a more flexible approach in that the antennas are simply mounted on pylons hung below the wing. The Blue design is a hybrid of the other configurations in that it integrates the antennas into a dielectric lower wing of a biplane configuration. Weight is one of the most common performance metrics associated with the merit of a preliminary aircraft design. This is due to the fact that the acquisition and operational cost of an aircraft are directly related to the vehicle weight. In these terms, the Red concept proved to be the most weight efficient with a takeoff weight of 760 lbs, while the White was the least efficient with a takeoff weight of 1,270 lbs. However, the purpose of this design is to choose the best design with respect to the whole system. The White concept was selected as the primary configuration as it represents the most flexible in terms of antenna integration. This is vital to the risk mitigation of this aircraft development. The White design was refined in the Class II design process resulting in the Meridian UAV. The Meridian has a takeoff weight of 1,080 lbs, an empty weight of 615 lbs, and a range of 950 nm (with reserves for an additional 160 nm). The Meridian is a turboprop powered aircraft with a design cruise speed of 120 kts and a takeoff and landing distance of 1,500 ft. The aircraft has ten hardpoints along the wing for antenna mounting, and is specifically designed for cold weather operations to include anti-icing provisions, system heating and cooling, and the ability to operate from snow/ice runways. The Meridian represents the application of conventional aircraft design methodologies to a UAV. This document discusses the viability of using these methods, which are typically used on inhabited aircraft, to design an uninhabited vehicle.
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