The mind-boggling developments and their innumerable
applications in almost all spheres of our life in the past decade has made the
heads spin in either disbelief or amazement, more so when looking at the
Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) which are otherwise commonly known as the
Essentially, a drone is a flying robot and these can be
remotely controlled or could be flown autonomously through software-controlled
flight plans in their embedded systems working in conjunction with Global
Positioning System (GPS).
Aircraft without a pilot on board go by many
names—unmanned air vehicle (UAV), remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) system, model
aircraft, remote control aircraft, and drone. With low prices, it is easier to
buy a small, high performance multi-rotor RPA, equipped with high definition
live stream video cameras, GPS, autopilot, and with decent flight time.
Drones are pilotless and non-crewed aircraft capable of
flight either by remote control or through the use of on-board computers. Other
names for these types of aircraft are remotely piloted vehicle (RPV), remotely
piloted aircraft (RPA), and remotely operated aircraft (ROA). A drone is
capable of controlled, sustained level flight and is powered by a jet,
reciprocating, or electric engine.
The dictionary of US Department of Defense defines UAVs
as “a powered, aerial vehicle that does not carry a human operator, uses
aerodynamics forces to provide vehicle lift, can fly autonomously or be piloted
remotely, can be expandable, and can carry a lethal or non- lethal
payload.” The demonstration of a remotely controlled boat by Nikola Tesla
in 1898 had led to the birth of remotely controlled UAV, which was invented by
Archibald M. Low two decades later. The Oxford English Dictionary describes
drones as ‘a remote-less controlled piloted aircraft or missile’. Understood in
such sense, drones came into first use after the World War II.
Since then, the number of drones in military use
increased substantially enough that the New York Time decided to refer to it as
a new paradigm for warfare. The public
perception of most of the UAV applications is still mainly associated with
military use, but many seem to forget that one of the founding fathers of the
idea of remotely controlled vehicles was the genial civil inventor – Nicola
Tesla. In fact, Tesla was the first to patent a remote-control for unmanned
vehicles (which he described as ‘teleautomation’), becoming one of the
foundational principles for today’s UAV’s.
In the past, UAVs have been used in a number of fields,
from agriculture to meteorology and from research to military warfare. In 1941,
target drones, the forerunner of modern UAVs, were incorporated with a camera
and a transmitter and were radio-guided to hit targets beyond the operator’s
sight. Later in 1955, this concept was developed to carry out reconnaissance
tasks by Americans who lost 25 percent of their reconnaissance pilots in WWII.
UAVs were first used by US Air Force and Navy in the
Vietnam War. Recent UAV models have remarkable capabilities and play a number
of excellent roles. Contrary to high costs, modern UAVs have several advantages
over manned aircraft. The UAVs reduce the manpower required for a particular
task. On average, one Japanese radio-controlled helicopter can do the work of
The earliest recorded use of a UAV dates back to 1849 AD
when the Austrians attacked the Venice city in Italy using unmanned balloons
loaded with explosives – a technology
that they had been developing for some time earlier. More than half-a-century
later, the British military, in 1915, used aerial photography in the Battle of
Neuve Chapelle and successfully captured more than 1,500 sky view maps of the
German trench fortifications.
In the following year, the USA started developing the UAV
technology during the WWI with the first pilotless aircraft and in 1930 they
started experimenting with radio-controlled aircraft which resulted in the
creation of the Curtiss N2C-2 drone in 1937. During WWII, the first
remote-controlled aircraft – Radioplane OQ-2- was created. Since then, the
drones have come a long way in terms of development and its applications in
both military and civil domains.
The considerable current benefits and
expected future uses of UAVs have been booming up the effort of UAV development
in 21st century. UAV missions include surveillance, tracking and target
engagement. The level of UAV autonomy ranges from radio controlled flight to
fully autonomous take-off, flight and landing depending on the system.
Hand-launch able UAVs are a growing market segment which has the added benefit
of being able to be launched without the need for runways or mechanical
launching aids that increase setup time and require additional training to use.
Barring a few obstacles, drones are a boon to the humanity in the modern times.
The innumerable benefits outnumber the disadvantages – the drones are
transforming the technologies and resulting into practical and realizable
solutions for improving the people’s lives today.
The Emirate of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates
(UAE) has been in the lead and in the forefront
for utilizing drones for our common benefits and created the world’s biggest
drone race and the first World Drone Prix. According to estimates, about US$10
billion is the projected economic impact of the drone industries by 2025 and
would result in creating over 100,000 international jobs.
Given its geographical location and the start of
all-encompassing socio-economic development since the late 1980s, the UAE has
been somewhat at a slow start in utilizing the opportunities thrown up by the
civil aviation which it developed at a rapid pace and is now counted among the
50 cities around the world that boasts of two international airports within their
urban limits. The UAE is committed to and is working towards remaining on the
cutting-edge of the technology and is going all-out to use drones for the common
good of the people.
Outside the UAE, the Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) have
been used for military purposes initially after getting developed rather
slowly. Advances in field of UAVs have been continuing – much for the larger
benefit of mankind- and it stunned the UAE residents and visitors in the year
2011 with a new development.
Visitors to the Dubai Air Show were stunned when Yabhon
United 40 (Smart Eye 2) was revealed. It is a Medium Altitude, Long Endurance
(MALE) UAV, designed and developed by ADCOM Systems, a UAE-based company. The
UAV can conduct near real-time assessment of combat and battle damage,
intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR), communications relay,
border surveillance, humanitarian aid and other special missions. It was
demonstrated later at the International Defence Exhibition and Conference
(IDEX) in Abu Dhabi in February 2013.
The UAE-based UAV specialist ADCOM Systems unveiled an
antisubmarine warfare (ASW) variant of its United-40 Medium Altitude Long
Endurance (MALE) UAV. The United-40 Block 6 has been developed so as to be able
to carry and deploy sonobuoys, plus a single lightweight torpedo.
ADCOM Systems says the United-40 Block 6 UAV can be used
to lay a barrier of sonobuoys, and then continue to loiter in the area for up
to 16 hours with its torpedo armament. Sonobuoy pre-processing – employing
proven multi-static techniques – would be performed on board the UAV, with
acoustic data then shared via link to co-operating units. Alternatively, a
group of UAVs could operate together to create a larger field of sonobuoys.
Cooperative operations could also be performed with
maritime patrol aircraft and ASW helicopters equipped with active dipping
sonars. One other option is for the United-40 Block 6 UAV to be used as a
dedicated weapon-carrier, thus allowing helicopters and MPAs to carry more fuel
and hence extend time on station. Such an approach would increase the range at
which submarine threats could be engaged.
Furthermore, given the potential proliferation of
submarine self-defense missile systems in the coming years, the use of a UAV to
drop a torpedo in the target vicinity would enable manned airborne ASW
platforms to remain at a safe range outside. The ADCOM and WASS are working to
advance the electronic and mechanical integration of the ASW payloads,
including drop testing from the United-40 platform.
The Yabhon family of unmanned air systems include Yabhon
-R, -R2, -RX, -H, -Smart Eye, -Smart Eye 1, and United 40 Bock 5. The United 40
MALE UAV features curved double longitudinal design with tandem wing
configuration. It is fitted with a fixed tricycle landing gear to facilitate
safe take-off and landing. The UAV can execute missions under hot and high
The United 40 MALE air vehicle can carry a payload of
1,000kg that includes two gyro-stabilized gimballed camera platforms and
Syntheticperture Radar (SAR). A sonar system is also installed for terrain and
The unmanned system incorporates four pods under the
wings to carry munitions for combat operations. Each pod has can carry
munitions weighing up to 100kg. External payloads can also be fitted under the
The UAV is powered by a hybrid turbine-electric
propulsion system integrating a four-stroke, four-cylinder turbocharged,
liquid/air-cooled Rotax 914 UL engine, which develops an output power of 115hp.
The engine incorporates a reduction gearbox and an integrated electric starter.
The propulsion system also consists of an 80hp electric motor.
The UAV is also fitted with intakes on either side of the
fuselage aft.The aircraft has a stall speed of 50km/h and can cruise at speeds
varying from 75km/h to 220km/h. It can operate at a maximum altitude of 7,000m
and can fly for up to five days or 120 hours.
The ADCOM Systems United 40 UAV is being developed for
long endurance reconnaissance and surveillance sorties with possible arming
capabilities in the future.
The United 40 is currently envisioned as an
intelligence-gathering, reconnaissance and communications relay platform, capable
of supporting various operations including those of Special Forces, regular
army and humanitarian aid responses. It is conceivable that the system may also
evolve along a more direct combat platform line, able to carry munitions into
combat and self-designate its targets – currently, four presented underwing
hard points will serve to carry mission pods (100kg each station).
The total payload capability (including internal) is to
be 2,200lbs.Perhaps the most unique physical quality of the United 40 is its
serpentine-like fuselage which bends down aft of the forward section to create
a noticeable valley. The empennage is then slightly elevated to complete the
shape, mounting a single vertical tail fin without any tailplanes present. A
three-bladed propeller blade is noted at the extreme rear of the design,
arranged in a “pusher” configuration. Intakes are also found at
either side of the extreme fuselage aft.
The main wing units of the United 40 are also of
particular note for there are two individual mainplanes – one mounted forward
and the other mounted aft. The forward pair sits higher than the aft pair when
views in profile and all are of a low-aspect ratio design similar to that of
gliders. Dimensionally, the United 40 is given a length of 11 meters, a
wingspan of 20 meters and a height of 4.4 meters.
The undercarriage is a retractable tricycle arrangement
which limits operation of the United 40 to prepared runaways. The entire
vehicle showcases an empty weight of 1,150lbs with a Maximum Take-Off Weight of
3,300lbs. The United 40 is to be powered by a twin engine arrangement with its
primary engine installation being a conventional unit outputting at 115
This is to be coupled with an electric system developing
up to 80 horsepower. All told, the United 40 is expected to reach speeds
between 75 and 200 kilometers per hour – this range based on available
marketing material from ADCOM Systems. Additionally, its service ceiling is
expected to reach around 7,000 meters (23,000 feet) while mission endurance
times will reach some 120 hours of constant operation.
ADCOM Systems United
40 Technical Specifications
Service Year: 2016
Altitude, Long Endurance (MALE) UAV
United Arab Emirates
ADCOM Systems, Incorporated – UAE
Production Total: 1
Space, Dimensions and Weights)
Operating Crew: 0
Length: 36.52 feet
Width: 65.62 feet
Height: 14.37 feet
Weight (Empty): 1,146
lb (520 kg)
Weight (MTOW): 3,307
lb (1,500 kg)
Installed Power and
Standard Day Performance
Engine(s): 1 x
Primary engine developing 115 horsepower with 1 x Electric motor generating 80
Maximum Speed: 137
mph (220 kph; 119 knots)
22,966 feet (7,000 meters; 4.35 miles)
Armament / Mission
Possible – aircraft
has mocked various stores across four primary hardpoints. Mission equipment
typically centered on combat/damage assessment, intelligence gathering,
reconnaissance, surveillance and communications relay. Payload of up to
Global Operators /
United 40 – Base
How Drones Work? UAVs were designed initially
for reconnaissance purposes, but their para-military and commercial development
was somewhat remained out of public sight. As the technology becomes more
advanced and costs fall, civilian day-today uses of UAVs are developing
rapidly. Drone technology is constantly evolving due to the new innovations.
Unmanned aerial vehicle technology covers everything from
the aerodynamics of the drone, materials in the manufacture of the physical
UAV, to the circuit boards, chipset and software which are the brains of the
drone. One of the most popular drones on the market is the Phantom 2 Vision+
which uses advanced technology.
This UAV is ideal to explain drone technology because it
has everything in one package. It
includes the UAV, gimbal and camera and uses some of the top drone technology
on the market today. New and highly advanced drones such as the DJI Mavic,
Phantom 4 Pro and Inspire 2 have come to the public market.
A typical unmanned aircraft is made of light composite
materials to reduce weight and increase maneuverability. This composite
material strength allows military drones to cruise at extremely high altitudes.
Drones are equipped with different state of the art technology such as
infra-red cameras (military UAV), GPS and laser (military UAV).
Drones can be controlled by remote control system or a
ground cockpit. An unmanned aerial vehicle system has two parts, the drone
itself and the control system. The nose
of the unmanned aerial vehicle is where all the sensors and navigational
systems are present. The rest of the body is complete innovation since there is
no loss for space to accommodate humans and also light weight. The engineering
materials used to build the drone are highly complex composites which can
absorb vibration which decreases the noise produced.
A very simple description of a drone is that it is a
flying computer with a camera attached. Drones have firmware which can be
updated to fix bugs and add new features. LED Flight Indicators: These
are found at the front and the rear of the drone. The front LEDs are for
indicating where the nose of the drone is. The rear LEDs flight indicators
light up to show the drones current flight status when the flight battery is
The UAV Remote Control System: This is the
wireless communication device using the 5.8 GHz frequency band. The drone and
the remote control system should already be paired when it leaves the factory.
The UAV Remote Control Receiver: The location of the 5.8 GHz receiver
technology link button is under the UAV and the Range Extender UAV
Technology is a wireless communication device which operates within the 2.4
GHz frequency. It is used to extend the range of communication between the
smartphone or tablet and the drone in an open unobstructed area. Transmission distance can reach up to 700
meters. Each range extender has a unique MAC address and network name (SSID).
The High Performance Camera: The Phantom 2 Vision+
carries an extremely high quality camera and a removable 4GB micro SD card. It
shoots full HD video at 1080p/30 frames per second and 720p/60 frames per
second, giving you crystal clear video and the option for slow motion shots.
The latest drones now includes cameras which can shoot
film in 4k video and can take 12 megapixel stills.The latest DJI Zenmuse Z3 is
an integrated aerial zoom camera and is optimized for still photography. The Zenmuse has a 7x zoom lens which is a
first in aerial cameras. The Walkera
Voyager 4 comes with an incredible 18x zoom camera.Gimbal technology is vital
to capture quality aerial photos, film or 3D imagery. The gimbal allows for any vibration from the
drone to not reach the camera. The
gimbal allows you to tilt the camera while in flight, creating unique
angles. It uses a 3 axial stabilized gimbal
and has 2 working modes. Practically all the latest drones have integrated
gimbals and cameras.
The leader in aerial gimbal technology is DJI with their
Zenmuse range. Multispectral, Lidar,
Photogrammetry and Thermal sensors are now being used on drones to provide 3D
models of buildings and landscape; Digital Elevation Maps (DEMS) of land, and
provide precision data on the health of crops, flowers, fauna, shrubs and
In 2016, drones were started using Time-of-Flight 3D
depth camera sensors which can be used on their own or with the above sensors
to provide solutions. ToF depth ranging
camera sensors can be used for object scanning, indoor navigation, and obstacle
avoidance, gesture recognition, tracking objects, measuring volumes, reactive
altimeters, 3D photography and augmented reality games, amongst others fields.
With Lidar and photogrammetry mapping, the drone will be
programmed to fly over a particular area using autonomous GPS waypoint
navigation. The camera on the drone will be taking photographs at 0.5 or 1
second intervals. These photos are then
stitched together using specialized software to create the 3D image. Drones in
some ways are flying computers. With an
operating system, flight controllers, main boards with programmable code. They can also be hacked into. Like a computer, one can protect your drone
Previous research has already
demonstrated the usefulness and robustness of UAVs and their ability to remain
in the air for months or even years at a time 12. The
Aquila drone plans to incorporate previous work by travelling at altitudes
ranging between 60,000 and 90,000 ft, utilizing solar power, and staying in the
air for at least 3 months at a time. Meeting these requirements is a
significant engineering task that will require the drone be optimized for its
Optimization algorithms for
varying UAVs are common in current literature. Many focus
on optimizing specific aspects in
regards to flight endurance, such as motor and propeller optimization, rather than
the full set of variables that will
maximize the overall vehicle.
Existing efforts to optimize UAV
endurance have done so through differing methodologies. Batill et al. focused
on the areas of aerodynamics, weights, propulsion, flight performance, and
stability/control in optimizing the design of electric powered UAVs 5. Abbe et al. and Zhu et al. both outlined
multiple concerns that need to be taken into account when designing solar
powered aircraft 6. Zhu
points out that achieving an energy balance during daytime and nighttime flying
states is a critical part of long endurance solar aircraft design. Others have
also optimized motor and propeller incorporation in UAVs 7, modeled practical solar energy
implementations 8, and
considered high altitude, high endurance modeling 9. This research combines techniques into an
overarching optimization problem, and hopes to expand on previous
research in multiple ways.
In this study will
explore endurance optimization techniques, to maximize the endurance of the
specified UAV. Design variables include wing span, chord, velocity, washout
angle, and airfoil shape, and angle of attack, battery type, motor type and
others. The possibility of increasing endurance through solar power will be
explored. Some of the variables will be considered in this optimization, they will
be used solely as user configurable parameters rather than design variables.
Level 0 Unmanned Aerial Vehicle
illustrated in Figure 1 below, the UAV is supplied with two input data for the
components inside to process. The main function of the UAV is to be a body for
the electrical component found within the UAV and with the two data the
algorithm and the power to be able to identify targets.
Figure 1: Level 0 UAV
Level 1 Unmanned Aerial Vehicle
A more in depth look at the UAV functionality displays the
input power (battery) powering the engine. It also shows that the camera is not
powered by any external power, but that it will have its own internal battery.
The autopilot has two inputs, the algorithm and the engine, this is important
because the input mission allows the autopilot to follow the designated path.
The second input to the autopilot is from the engine; this input helps the
autopilot know the speed of the UAV and the in return the autopilot can reduce
the speed to stay in the constraint speed. The Vehicle Dynamics is the action
in which the autopilot reacts to the speed, angle,
and other physical
movement of the aircraft. Adding all the components together the system output
will be able to identify targets.
Figure 2: Level 1 UAV Functionality
Level 0 Autopilot
The autopilot is composed of multiple components; the primary
inputs are the mission and power being sourced by the power engine. The outputs
consist of rudder, elevator, throttle and CPU. The mission will provide the
specifications in relation to the overall functionality of the autopilot and
the power from the engine will be the source of energy for the autopilot. The
out puts have an overall functionality of assisting with the flight path of the
Figure 3: Level 01 Autopilot functionality
A further insight into the autopilot show that it is
composed of multiple components, the accelerometer has the ability to control
the speed of the aircraft, the mission will have a command telling it to slow
down when the camera spots a possible target and it will have another command
the will not allow the UAV to fly faster than the constraint speed of 100knots.
The power from the engine will power the entire autopilot system. Another
important component found inside the autopilot is the GPS and GPS receiver,
both parts is used to locate the UAV and to give location of targets. Putting
together all these internal components assist with the flight path calculation
that is called the vehicle dynamics.
Figure 4: Level 1 Autopilot functionality