Tulsa

Sunlight, batteries and flying machines – Tulsa, Oklahoma

Tulsa, Oklahoma 2021-08-04 20:38:10 –

More than 100 years have passed since then Wilbur and Orville Wright Realized the dream of mechanized flight over the changing sands of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. Since then, human appeal to flying machines has grown, leading to technologies that will make them proud of their pioneers.

Mechanical engineering team assembles a custom glider for high speed taxi testing

Some of the latest inventors called by the Smithsonian Institution Aerial age I’m a recent graduate of the University of Tulsa Electrical and computer engineering (ECE) and Mechanical engineering (ME) Program. In the spring semester of senior years, the ECE team Sol Aero, consisting of Duke Schaffner (BS ’21), team leader Patrick Marie (BEE ’21) and Eriditus (BEE ’21), will focus on power and autonomous development. Did.Control system Unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV).

This project was a thorough interdisciplinary venture. SolAero worked in tandem with the work of the ME team led by Michael Heins (BS ’21), who developed the new high-efficiency aircraft.In addition, the professor Stephen Tipton from me, Parameswar Hari from Physics When Kaveh Ashenayi ECE provided significant support to the team in the areas of aerodynamics, solar heat capture and power conversion, respectively.

Young man carrying a big red and white model plane
Electrical and computer engineering teams gather at the airfield for flight tests

Assistant Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering Lloyd hook We formed a team and the team worked together to develop a NASA grant proposal. Although not funded by NASA in the first attempt, the team proceeded with the development of a working prototype, collected data, and used it to submit another proposal in June 2021. ..

Power and control

“Sol Aero’s teammates and I started in January by building a basic power and control system on a small Cessna RC airplane built from a poster board,” Schaffner explains. “I chose a cheap and durable poster board. I also learned the working principles of equipment such as autopilots, LiPo batteries, servos, motors, and electronic speed controllers.”

In mid-February, Schaffner, Maley, and Dittus moved to install power and control systems on larger Citabria-style RC aircraft. The system was then tested and optimized, and the team launched its first test flight on March 19. “This milestone allowed us to adjust many of the aircraft’s parameters to optimize flight and control,” says Schaffner. That same day, they carried out the first simple autonomous Reuters.

Red and white model Citabria aircraft with solar panels on its wings
Citabria airplane used to test solar power and control technology

Schaffner and his teammates applied what they learned from this flight and the data they collected to begin configuring more autonomous functions. At the same time, Marie installed a solar panel on the wing and connected the charging circuit to the power system.

With solar charging ready and autonomy configured, Schaffner, Marie and Ditus embarked on a second test flight on April 10. Unfortunately, cloudy skies meant inadequate sun charge data, and solar panels affected the shape of the wings, making flying a plane much more difficult. True to the maxim that “things happen in three,” the tail wheel of the plane also broke. It’s time for Sol Aero men to call it a day.

“Using the control system, I learned a lot about the different features of airplanes and flight in general, and the autopilot, and how they work with the different components of the UAV. Using the power system, I learned a lot. Learned a lot about working with solar cells.

“It was interesting to see the current and voltage characteristics of the entire system and how they change during operation. Specifically, the current, voltage, and power characteristics of solar cells in flight. We analyzed the position and orientation of the aircraft with respect to the sun, and how the power consumption of the aircraft itself affects the power generated by the solar cells, and the position and orientation of the aircraft. Based on the orientation, we were able to write a program that accurately predicts the power generated by the solar cell, which will be used when developing advanced autonomous algorithms to maximize exposure to the sun in the future. I think it helps. ”— Duke Schaffner (BS ’21)

A young man in a blue shirt sitting and operating the remote control
Khashayar Niki Maleki, a PhD candidate in electrical and computer engineering, is maneuvering a “tracking” drone to support flight tests.

After replacing the tail and modifying the aerodynamics of the solar cells, the crew resumed flight on April 19. Thankfully, it was a calm and sunny day. “We were able to board several flights and adjust many of the autonomy parameters,” Schaffner said. “We used a tuned aircraft to perform extended autonomous Reuters and 4-waypoint autonomous missions. We also collected a lot of solar charge data.”

One of the things the team struggled with on April 19th was an autonomous landing. However, by examining the data for the day and adjusting accordingly, they piloted the aircraft again on April 30 and made some autonomous touchdowns. But when the plan hit a tree, the outing was forced to end.

Nonetheless, SolAero is currently using it to revise NASA’s proposals, hoping to collect a wealth of data and secure future funding. The unique solar cell augmentation process used at that stage of the project has been developed by Professor Hari and his colleagues.

Once they submit the proposal, the work on the Sol Aero project will be completed for the time being. Schaffner will take up a position in the IT department of ConocoPhillips, Dittus will become an apprentice for audio equipment developers, and Maley will return to TU in the fall to begin graduate research.

Parameswar Hari’s expertise in solar cell technology Recently announced partnership It is based on the US Air Force’s Small Business Technology Transfer Award for researching highly efficient and cost-effective solar panels for UAVs between the University of Tulsa and Skydweller Aero Inc.


Interested in helping develop innovative technologies that make the future cleaner and safer? Then consider enrolling in one of the exciting programs offered through TU. Faculty of Engineering and Natural Sciences..



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