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Home arrow Engineering arrow Small Unmanned Fixed-Wing Aircraft Design. A Practical Approach

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Manufacturing Methods

As already noted, a key requirement for the manufacture of the UAVs being considered here is that ideally no craft skills be needed in construction. Thus the focus is on

  • • advanced parametric CAD-based geometry design;
  • • logical and CAD-based design of wiring looms including all plug/socket physical details with manufacture by dedicated specialists;
  • • numerically controlled digital manufacture involving
  • - 3D printing - selective laser-sintered (SLS) nylon or metal and fused deposition modeling (FDM) ABS,
  • - laser-cut wood and plastic,
  • - hot-wire-cut foam (foam parts sometimes being covered by outsourcing to specialists);
  • • use of stock-sized materials such as off-the-shelf CFRP tubular sections.

None of these involves a novel approach, but it is certainly the case that typical aero-modelers do not use such methods. Moreover, the use of SLS nylon and FDM ABS in aircraft fuselage design is relatively new, being an approach championed at the University of Southampton (who flew the world’s first all- SLS printed aircraft in August 2011[1]). Most UAVs currently rely on bespoke-molded CFRP fuselage sections which, although offering good strength-to-weight ratios, increase the cost and reduce the speed with which design changes can be implemented. Three-dimensional printing allows designers to continue to refine their work to within 48 h of flight trials with impunity.

  • [1] See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ffrJ0l2ETaU.
 
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