Numerical Analysis of Inflatable Structures With Application to Unmanned Aerial Vehicles
Event:182nd Technical Meeting Location: Cincinnati, OH Date: October 09, 2012 Author: Michael Coatney, Muthuvel Murugan, Mulugeta Haile, Harris Edge Paper Number: 74
Several areas of unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) performance need to be improved for the next generation of UAVs to be used successfully in expanded future combat roles. This paper describes the research to improve the performance of UAVs through the use of lighter-than-air or pressurized structures-based (PSB) technologies. The paper examines how to construct the UAV in such a way that a considerable percentage of its weight will be supported by or composed of inflatable structures containing air or helium. In this way, PSB technology will reduce the amount of energy required to keep the UAV aloft, thus allowing the use of smaller and quieter motors. Using PSB technology in tandem with improving technologies in electronics, energy storage, and materials should provide a substantial increase over current UAV performance in areas needed by the military. To consider using inflated fabric beams as the main load carrying members of UAV, an accurate and efficient method of structural analysis must be developed. This paper presents analysis techniques using nonlinear finite element method tailored for membrane structures. The numerical simulation results are compared to test results conducted to verify the validity of the FEA model.
By Michael Coatney, Muthuvel Murugan, Mulugeta Haile, Harris Edge