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


The principle of divide et impera (divide and conquer) is employed extensively in the solution process of larger scale design problems, and this may well be a good idea in many unmanned systems projects (e.g., allocating certain subsystems to subteams may not yield an optimal airplane however one may define optimality - but it may be the only way to expedite a design process to meet external deadlines). Here, however, we focus on the idea of division applied to the design itself. Typical questions include the following:

  • • Should the function of lift generation be divided between multiple surfaces, as on the Proteus aircraft shown in Figure 10.2 or (slightly more conventionally) on canard designs?
  • • What resources could be divided to increase redundancy? This is a good time to decide on the number of powerplants. In fact, how far can the division of power production be taken? A key advantage of electrical power is that powerplants can be highly distributed; for example, tens of small motors could be embedded in the leading edge of the wing, thus producing powered lift as a by-product of generating thrust.
  • • Should the fuel be divided between multiple tanks (either for redundancy or center of gravity considerations)?
  • • What topology would facilitate disassembly, compact storage, and transport?
  • • Could a modular construction facilitate operational flexibility? Should any of the lifting surfaces, payload pods, and so on, be designed to be unplugged and replaced with different size/shape ones to better suit a different mission?
  • • Should the mission be divided among several smaller aircraft, working together? For example, should one large volcanic ash cloud density sampling aircraft fly a complicated space-filling trajectory through a block of airspace or should a flock of smaller aircraft execute the same mission together by breaking the problem down in smaller, easier subproblems solvable with simpler trajectories (distributed autonomy)?
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