Air Platforms

UAV Turbines developing microturbine engine for UAVs

05 November 2019

UAV Turbines’ Monarch 5 engine inside a NavMar Applied Sciences Corporation TigerShark airframe. Source: UAV Turbines

UAV Turbines is developing a microturbine engine specifically for Group 3 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), and the company believes the engines will be more reliable than the reciprocating engines commonly used in this class of aircraft.

UAV Turbines believes its Monarch 5 class of engines could improve US Army UAV propulsion in the smaller Group 3 and Group 4 range. The company has three different Monarch 5 models: turboshaft, turbogenerator, and turboprop. UAV Turbines also has a small Monarch 1 turbogenerator.

The Monarch 5 engines include a through-the-shaft, full authority digital engine control (FADEC), hydraulically-actuated variable pitch mechanism. UAV Turbines introduced a lightweight recuperator for the first time in a flight weight micro turboprop, providing better fuel efficiency.

Fred Frigerio, company senior vice-president and programme manager, told Jane's on 18 October that the Monarch 5 engines are specifically designed for UAV use in the smaller Group 3 and Group 4 range, in which companies run into trouble. He said, in this range electric motors do not provide enough power and companies often try to repurpose motorcycle engines or rotary engines designed for other purposes, with poor results.

Kirk Warshaw, UAV Turbines president and CEO, told Jane's that it has been tough in the past to develop a small turbine engine because the turbine technology does not scale down well. UAV Turbines, he said, recruited engine designers from industry leaders such as Pratt & Whitney and Rolls-Royce and has designed a microturbine engine that can spin at 160,000 rpm, which he said is faster than any UAV propeller engine can spin.

Frigerio said UAV Turbines' Monarch 5 engines can go 2,000 hours between maintenance and have a goal of 3,000-4,000 hours between work. In contrast, Warshaw said these repurposed engines often require overhauls every 200-300 hours.

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