Design and analysis of a low cost, deployable unmanned aerial vehicle for environmental surveillance

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Surveillance aircraft require long flight endurance and range to perform their task fully. An aircraft's flight endurance can be increased by lowering the aircraft's weight and increasing the UAV's wingspan. However, the challenges that arise with a long wingspan are increased weight and costs due to the addition of materials to the wing. Most importantly, it results in large volumes that take much storage space resulting in difficulties in storing and deploying multiple UAVs. This project discusses the design and analysis of a low-cost micro-UAV with collapsible wings made from lightweight, flexible fabric. The UAV designed in this paper weighs less than 300g and flies at an altitude of 200m and a flight endurance of approximately 45 minutes. Size optimisation was done in guidance with the mission and design requirements. Flight endurance baseline was established by deriving a mathematical endurance model together with power sizing. The shape of the UAV was defined using configuration selection. This was followed by 3D modelling of parts and were assembled using SolidWorks software. To wrap the design, an XFLR5 software was used to analyse and select aerofoils and analyse the UAV's aerodynamic performance, Cl, Cd and Cl/Cd. The coefficient of lift of the aircraft when cruising is 0.455. Results from XFLR5 were compared with the analytically predicted values. Lastly, structural analysis (Finite Element Analysis (FEA)) was performed numerically (using SolidWorks) to determine the structural performance of the wing hinge to avoid failures due to static and fatigue torsional stresses. The critical point on the hinge had 0.74% damage and a safety factor of 2.258, showing that the hinge is unlikely to fail. Keywords: UAV Design, Aerofoil, XFLR5, Flight Endurance
Capstone Project submitted to the Department of Engineering, Ashesi University in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the award of Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering, May 2021