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Innovative Turbine Engine Propulsion Solutions for Class 3 Unmanned Aerial Vehicles


OBJECTIVE: Develop a low cost and high performance, design concept and technologies for an innovative propulsion system, (40 to 50 shaft horsepower (shp) for class III Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) in the area of small recuperated or high OPR (overall pressure ratio) turbine engines. 

DESCRIPTION: The role of class III UAVs is becoming more prevalent for high altitude reconnaissance, and weapons delivery. New turbine engine based concepts are desired that are reliable and capable of long lives with minimal maintenance, have high fuel efficiency, have high altitude capability, have low noise, have the ability to operate in austere environments and that can be produced at low cost. These requirements require innovation over existing propulsion system architectures available in the market place. Efficient, light-weight, compact, durable, high efficiency and high temperature turbomachinery is required including high efficiency compression systems, compact combustion systems, high temperature turbines, oil-less bearings, long life recuperators, and highly efficient gearboxes. Advanced material systems are available, but not yet demonstrated for small turboshaft/turboprop engines. In addition, advanced subsystems need to be developed for these small engines to increase reliability and reduce costs. The innovative turboshaft concepts, component technologies, material systems and propulsion subsystems concept must provide maximum fuel efficiency at the lowest cost and highest power to weight, while providing a long life reliable system that requires almost no maintenance. The 40 to 50 shp turbine engine should have equivalent weight and efficiency levels similar to the piston engine. 

PHASE I: Demonstrate an innovative small turboshaft or turboprop engine advanced concept and provide cycle analysis, development and cost estimates. Identify the key engine components and subsystems for maturation and approaches on reducing fuel consumption. 

PHASE II: Design, develop, and test key engine components, or subsystems, and/or complete engines. Validate the benefits of the components in a relevant environment and or preferred in a turboshaft or turboprop engine. Validate reliability, power to weight, fuel consumption and reduction in maintenance and production cost. The engine architecture can be validated in a higher or lower power class but should be scalable to 40 to 50 shp. 

PHASE III: Transition engine design technologies/simulations and experimentally validated engine components to SOCOM UAV development programs. Commercialize the design technologies/simulations and prototype (40 to 50 shp) engine for full-scale engine development and production for future class III UAVs. 


1: "Turbo Machinery Dynamics

2:  Design and Operation", Abdulla S. Rangwal, pub: McGraw-Hill, April 2005.

3:  "Gas Turbine Engines: Fundamentals", David R. Greatrix, 2012.

4:  "Development, Fabrication and Application of a Primary Surface Gas Turbine Recuperator," Parsons, E., SAE Technical Paper 851254, 1985. Solar Turbines, San Diego, CA.

5:  "Hydrostatic, Aerostatic and Hybrid Bearing Design", William B. Rowe, 2012.

KEYWORDS: Recuperator, Hybrid Bearings, Air Foil Bearings, Core Component Technologies, Advanced Ceramics 


Gregory Minkiewicz 

(937) 255-1878 

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