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At a glance

The MPUAS project is set to reach a Technology Readiness Level (TRL) of 6. The project initiated in 2018, and its consortium is made up of Greek academic institutes and industries. It has a three-year duration and the flight tests of the prototype, marked as RX-4, are scheduled for 2021.

The consortium

The Laboratory of Fluid Mechanics and Turbomachinery (LFMT) and the UAV integrated Research Center (UAV-iRC), at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (AUTH), at Greece, are responsible for the aerodynamic and structural design, the flight control system, the flight path optimization and the data gathering and management software of the RX-4. The Laboratory of Robotics and Automation, at the Democritus University of Thrace, is responsible for the development of the perception and obstacle avoidance system. MLS is responsible for the development of the portable ground control station (GCS), while Geosense determines the flight requirements of the RX-4 and conducts the platform integration and flight testing.

Innovation

The MPU RX-4 will uniquely combine fixed-wing flight and VTOL capabilities. Its advanced autonomous flight and obstacle avoidance systems will ensure its safe and efficient operation on a pre-defined trajectory. Finally, its modular design will offer low weight, high portability and payload versatility.

01

LFMT, AUTH

Project coordinator, UAV design & performance, aerodynamics & stability, structural analysis, manufacturing drawings, flight control system, flight path optimization, data gathering and management software

02

LRA, DUTH

Perception and obstacle avoidance system

03

MLS

Development of the portable GCS

04

GEOSENSE

RX-4 flight requirements, platform integration and flight tests

The mission

The aim of the MPU research project is to develop a small portable Unmanned Aerial System (UAS), capable of hybrid flight. The MPU RX-4 Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) will perform a variety of missions, including, photogrammetry, 3D mapping of urban areas, cartography, precision agriculture, search and rescue, industrial inspections, patrols, reconnaissance and surveillance.


 

The innovation

Vertical Takeoff and Landing (VTOL)


The MPU RX-4 will have a unique combination of conventional fixed-wing flight and VTOL capability (hybrid flight), combining advantages of both fixed-wing and multirotor UAVs. That way, It will be deployable from almost any terrain, and have the ability to hover over areas of interest.


Autonomous Flight


The in-house flight controller will be able to achieve the vehicle’s convergence to a pre-defined trajectory in an autonomous way using Galileo GNSS. In addition, the RX-4 will be able to compensate for any external disturbance such as wind, measurement noise etc.


Obstacle Avoidance


The aircraft’s perception system contributes to its safe operation. This is achieved by recognizing and avoiding potential obstacles in collision course, maintaining sufficient distance from the ground, as well as landing on level terrain.


Modularity


The aim is to achieve a maximum take-off weight of less than 4 kg, in accordance with the UAS Open Category CAT A1. Moreover, the UAV design will be modular, and the Ground Control Station will be a portable lightweight pack, equipped with a tablet and integrated telemetry system, offering an increased portability. The MPU platform is also capable of carrying multiple type of payload.

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Aerodynamic design

The MPUAS RX-4 design was based on well-established aircraft design textbooks and methodologies. In-house sizing tools and routines were used to facilitate the layout, aerodynamics, and stability calculations. These tools were adjusted to the needs of UAVs and tuned to incorporate the unique characteristics of the novel VTOL platform. They have also been validated through the design of the HCUAV RX-1, the first large-scale Hellenic Civil UAV for surveillance missions, which has successfully undergone several flight tests.

Computational analyses

The layout design and sizing procedure is compliant with FAA pt.23 regulations and supported by high-fidelity aerodynamic analysis (CFD) and structural analysis (FEM) tools. The geometry used for the analyses was generated using existing parametric 3D CAD tools, which allow changes at the aerial vehicle configuration to be executed swiftly and accurately during design. The results were imported in a dedicated flight simulator software, for the evaluation of the key performance, aerodynamic and stability specifications of the RX-4.