Autonomous Hybrid Powered Long Ranged Airship for Surveillance and Guidance

Title: Autonomous Hybrid Powered Long Ranged Airship for Surveillance and Guidance
Authors: Recoskie, Steven
Date: 2014
Abstract: With devastating natural disasters on the rise, technological improvements are needed in the field of search and rescue (SAR). Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) would be ideal for the search function such that manned vehicles can be prioritized to distributing first-aid and ultimately saving lives. One of the major reasons that UAVs are under utilized in SAR is that they lack a long flight endurance which compromises their effectiveness. Dirigibles are well suited for SAR missions since they can hover and maintain lift without consuming energy and can be easily deflated for packaging and transportation. This research focuses on extending flight endurance of small-scale airship UAVs through improvements to the infrastructure design and flight trajectory planning. In the first area, airship design methodologies are reviewed leading to the development and experimental testing two hybrid fuel-electric power plants. The prevailing hybrid power plant design consists of a 4-stroke 14cc gasoline engine in-line with a brushless DC motor/generator and variable pitch propeller. The results show that this design can produce enough mechanical and electrical power to support 72 hours of flight compared to 1-4 hours typical of purely electric designs. A power plant configuration comparison method was also developed to compare its performance and endurance to other power plant configurations that could be used in dirigible UAVs. Overall, the proposed hybrid power plant has a 600% increase in energy density over that of a purely electric configuration. In the second area, a comprehensive multi-objective cost function is developed using spatially variable wind vector fields generated from computational fluid dynamic analysis on digital elevations maps. The cost function is optimized for time, energy and collision avoidance using a wavefront expansion approach to produce feasible trajectories that obey the differential constraints of the airship platform. The simulated trajectories including 1) variable vehicle velocity, 2) variable wind vector field (WVF) data, and 3) high grid resolutions were found to consume 50% less energy on average compared to planned trajectories not considering one of these three characteristics. In its entirety, this research addresses current UAV flight endurance limitations and provides a novel UAV solution to SAR surveillance.
CollectionThèses, 2011 - // Theses, 2011 -