Kent State Works on Army-Funded Drone Propulsion Research

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A researcher at Ohio’s Kent State University has received an unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) research grant from the U.S. Army Research Laboratory.

The grant provides more than $130,000 for Blake Stringer, Ph.D., assistant professor of aerospace engineering in Kent State’s College of Aeronautics and Engineering, to study propulsion systems for a new generation of midsize UAS, the university explains.

“I would say that unmanned aircraft systems are becoming the disruptive tech of the 21st century in the aerospace and aviation industries,” Stringer says. “This technology is really changing the way we function as a society. So how do we control them? How do we implement them? How do we use them? How big can they be?”

In a collaborative effort with Army Research Lab consultants and researchers at the University of Tennessee, Stringer will assess the feasibility of creating a drone that can serve a wide variety of functions for the military.

“Maybe you have soldiers in an urban area clearing a building and they need to be extracted from a top floor on a high-rise building, or you’re looking for something that can send supplies to a more remote area,” says Stringer, a 20-year Army veteran.

The project also involves building an experimental test stand, says Kent State.

“We’ll put different-sized electric motors and different-sized rotors on it and measure things like thrust, speed, thermal efficiency, acceleration, deceleration and vibration data,” explains Stringer.

He says one of the main challenges for designing such aircraft is meeting power requirements.

“How do we efficiently produce power that’s not around a gas turbine or a piston engine?” Stringer says. “Is it going to be some kind of hybrid propulsion system? Will you have a fuel cell that feeds into a battery and uses the battery for surge moments? There are a lot of different questions.”

Stringer says the grant is for a one-year project, but he hopes the research will be successful enough to take the group project to a second phase of support by the Army.

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