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Orbital delivers sensor-loaded UAV propulsion system

Editorial
article image The ScanEagle UAV propulsion system is the first of its type to be engineered from the ground up for unmanned aerospace applications.

PERTH-based Orbital Corporation has delivered the first purpose-built internal combustion propulsion system for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) to Boeing subsidiary Insitu.

The ScanEagle UAV propulsion system is the first of its type to be engineered from the ground up for unmanned aerospace applications. Insitu will now conduct in-house testing and flight tests.

Orbital has been working with Insitu division of Boeing since January 2013 as part of an initial design, development and validation contract to supply UAV propulsion systems.

If the tests are successful, Orbital expects that its facilities in Perth will receive a low volume production contract, which may evolve into a higher volume production business that would require Orbital to establish new production facilities in the US.

The delivered propulsion system was designed and manufactured by Orbital and incorporates Orbital’s new Argon Engine Control Unit (ECU) and control system. The Argon ECU includes real-time monitoring and diagnostics of all critical systems, sensor and actuator redundancy, and extensive ‘black box’ recording capability.

The system also uses Orbital’s FLEXDI technology, boosts performance for heavy fuel SUAS (Small Unmanned Aircraft System) engine applications, significantly extending the range for the aircraft in flight.

According to Orbital, the SUAS and Medium Altititude Long Endurance (MALE) UAV markets are moving towards the use of heavy fuel, and its system ensures it is in the lead for UAV propulsion system technologies.

The global SUAS market alone is projected to reach $1.9B by 2020, with increasing civil and military applications as the driving factors in this market. Sales of the overall UAV market are expected to double within the next five years.

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