Rocket-Launched UAV

Aim

The aim of the Rocket Launched UAV project is to fire a rocket with an autonomous Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) in its payload. When the rocket reaches a certain altitude the UAV will deploy midair and fly autonomously as instructed from a ground-based station. Moreover, the UAV will be modified to send data back to the ground-based station from a number of subsystems, before landing safely.

In this project, we hope to show the many advantages that a rocket-launched UAV can have over a conventional UAV. The main advantages are:

  • Visual overview over a larger area in a shorter time
  • Increased range
  • Improved accessibility to some hard-to-reach way points

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Approach

To really test the potential of a Rocket-Launched UAV System, the UAV air-frame will be based on a proven design. We are currently in the stage of modifying this air-frame to fit inside the maximum diameter of the rocket we plan to use. Moreover, we are programming the Command Center recently developed by YUAA to act as the aircraft’s autopilot. Later stages of the project include fitting telemetry to the UAV,  test flying the UAV, constructing the rocket and implementing safety systems.

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Motivation

The Yale Undergraduate Aerospace Association has chosen to start this UAV project because it allows the student team members to benefit from hands-on, practical work in several engineering fields and learn to design systems that meet high standards for safety and reliability. Furthermore, UAV development has room for many new innovations and it is also a field that is becoming increasingly important for many military and commercial ventures.

Thomas and Omega

Plane Flights

Saturday morning November 16th, at Swamp Flyers Flying Club Field, the UAV, Alpha, flew for the first time after being constructed by the UAV team. The plane made three flights that were  five to eight minutes long. It didn’t fly autonomously but by radio control, still the team was able to test how long it will take for the plane to gain control after being deployed from the rocket.  It was discovered that the plane could go from an almost stand still to flying without dropping more than five feet, which is a very promising result for the future.

Alpha flew successfully again on April 19th. This time, however, the plains wings were attached via a scissor wing mechanism. This mechanism was composed of a laser cut structure and ball bearings which allowed the plane’s wing to rotate on an axis and fold up parallel to the body. The group drove to the Swamp Flyers Flying Club Field and flew the plane  for several hours without any issues.

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Launch of Omega

The team packed up their rocket and gear the weekend of April 26th,  and made the long drive up the the URRG launch in upstate New York. On Saturday the team launched their 15 ft rocket. The rocket flew perfectly, and experienced members commented that they would never have expected such a large rocket to fly so straight. Unfortunately, though the charges and backup charges went off as planned, the rocket sections did not separate preventing the parachutes from deploying. Despite this hiccup, the team is excited to have constructed a rocket on such a large scale which flew beautifully.

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