Advanced Innovative Engineering (UK) Ltd (Lead), Vortex Exhaust Technology Limited, Electronica Products Limited, McGeoch Technology Limited
Advanced Innovative Engineering is leading this project in developing a hybrid power unit for use in UAVs. The project will couple an Internal combustion engine (ICE) with a hybrid power system in order to reap the benefits that this can provide, including extending flight range, reducing fuel burn and improving flight acoustics.
The company was set up in 2012 and quickly established a niche in market for this technology. The majority of multirotor UAVs are exclusively electric, primarily to due weight considerations, and have an average flight time of 30/40 minutes. By combining technologies, speed, distance and cost requirements can all be met. UAVs are becoming increasingly popular in the provision of a range of civilian services such as: land surveying, building inspection, crop-spraying, and search & rescue.
Having previously engaged in a number of UK projects including NATEP, Innovate UKs SMART funding and Niche Vehicle, this is Advanced Innovative Engineering’s first ATI project. The SREEV project will be delivered by a consortium consisting of four leading cross disciplinary SMEs based in the UK.
Multi-rotor vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) RPAS are well suited to this growing emerging market. Amongst other things, the ease-of-control afforded by VTOL RPAS over other platforms makes them ideal for civilian applications. Areas of particular application are currently in first responder, search and rescue, surveillance, agriculture and coastal patrols.
Despite their advantages, VTOL RPAS platforms are currently significantly hindered by limited range/endurance (<1hour), well below the 4 hours endurance that is typically required in order to deliver “productive added-value". Internal combustion engines (ICEs) cannot provide the control precision to the rotors, nor independent drive without complex drivetrain mechanisms. Therefore, in order to bridge this endurance gap, the SREEV project will develop a range extender solution that is capable of boosting VTOL RPAS battery life and deliver close to 240mins continuous flight-time.
One further benefit is that internal combustion engine will also be able charge the battery. During flight, the systems can be switched, so if quieter flight is required, the internal combustion engine can be switched off.
The economic impact for this technology is very valuable. The spillover alone is already of interest to the automotive industry who face similar challenges in reducing weight and fuel burn and is also in scope for future marine application.
Producing technologies and solutions in a UK consortium that would not have been available without ATI funding has also opened up the markets in which this product can be exploited. “ATI funding has allowed us to work with partners in the UK, increasing the UK expertise and allowing access to markets that would perhaps been more limited with overseas investors", commented Nathan Bailey, Managing Director of Advanced Innovative Engineering.
Furthermore, the necessity for quick development to stay ahead of the game was stated as critically important in the development and introduction to the market, again something that was be unachievable without ATI funding.
A number of cross sector customers are already in engagement due to its open nature. The project is on course to achieve this goal by late 2017, and with low volume production techniques a quick entry market is anticipated to be achievable.