in Aerospace / Events

UK team trials new ultra-endurance air vehicle

Posted 26 April 2019 · Add Comment

A group of UK experts has successfully flown the first ever large-scale aircraft powered by variable-buoyancy propulsion.

The Phoenix is designed to repeatedly transition from being lighter than air to being heavier than air so thrust is generated to propel the craft forward.

Variable-buoyancy propulsion is used in underwater remotely operated vehicles, but has never before been harnessed for large aircraft. The system means the uninhabited vehicle is self-sufficient in energy so could, in theory, be operational for an unlimited period of time, an innovation which could revolutionise the telecommunications industry.

The team behind the ultra-long endurance autonomous aircraft includes representatives from academia and industry. Andrew Rae (left), Professor of Engineering at the University of the Highlands and Islands Perth College UHI Campus, led the design of the aeroplane: “The Phoenix spends half its time as a heavier-than-air aeroplane, the other as a lighter-than-air balloon. The repeated transition between these states provides the sole source of propulsion.

“The vehicle’s fuselage contains helium to allow it to ascend and also contains an air bag which inhales and compresses air to enable the craft to descend. This motion propels the aeroplane forwards and is assisted by the release of the compressed air through a rear vent.

“This system allows the Phoenix to be completely self-sufficient. The energy needed to power its pumps and valves is provided by a battery which is charged by lightweight flexible solar cells on its wings and tail.

“Vehicles based on this technology could be used as pseudo satellites and would provide a much cheaper option for telecommunication activities. Current equivalent aeroplanes are very complex and very expensive. By contrast, Phoenix is almost expendable and so provides a user with previously unavailable options.”



The prototype aeroplane, which is 15 metres long and has a wingspan of 10.5 metres, was flown successfully and repeatedly over a distance of 120 metres during indoor trials at the Drystack facility in Portsmouth in March. The test flight was the culmination of a three-year project to prove the viability of a variable-buoyancy powered aircraft.

The Phoenix team are now exploring collaborations with major manufacturers to take the technology to the next phase of development. The project has been part-funded by Innovate-UK, the UK’s Innovation Agency, through the Aerospace Technology Institute.

The University of the Highlands and Islands offers a range of aircraft engineering programmes and pursues research activities across the aerospace sector and in motorsport. The Perth College UHI Dunne Aeronautical Laboratory gives students access to state-of-the-art learning and research facilities in aerodynamics, propulsion and flight. These include a large flight simulator, gas-turbine rig and wind tunnels.

 

* required field

Post a comment

Other Stories
Advertisement
Latest News

Pelican to showcase shock-proof cases at Dubai Air Show

Pelican-Hardigg will be showcasing its shock-proof engineered case solutions at the Dubai Air Show (17th to 21st November 2019).

QinetiQ's Obsidian Counter UAS System on trial at YOW

The Ottawa Macdonald-Cartier International Airport Authority (the Airport Authority) has partnered with NAV CANADA and QinetiQ Canada, to trial the company’s Obsidian Counter UAS System at YOW (Ottawa’s international airport).

Airbus Solar Orbiter heads for the Sun in Florida

Airbus' Stevenage built Solar Orbiter, the European Space Agency’s (ESA) flagship mission to study the Sun, has completed all tests and is set to be flown to Cape Canaveral ready for its launch in February 2020.

Acropolis Aviation appoints Mark Bird as Ground Operations Manager

UK VVIP executive charter operator based at Farnborough Airport, Acropolis Aviation, has appointed Mark Bird as Ground Operations Manager.

Jet2 adds three aircraft at Birmingham Airport

Jet2.com and Jet2holidays has today announced an expansion to its Summer 20 programme from Birmingham Airport, including two brand new destinations, more flights and holidays and three additional aircraft.

CAA consultation considers moving light aircraft designs

The UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has today launched a consultation to seek views on a proposal to move new designs of light aircraft weighing between 450kg and 600kg from pan-European certification, under the European Aviation

See us at
VIDSE BT1605060320DSEI JP BT1605201119FIL20BT010819260720SMI FAV BT1006141119SMI ActiveP BT1206121119SMI GMS BT1906071119