On-board electrical power generation for UAVs

Block diagram of a typical generator system

Typical generator system

Minimising the mass that must be carried by an airframe is central to maximising performance and range. Batteries can constitute a significant part of the overall mass of small to medium-sized UAVs, and so storing the necessary electrical energy in an alternative form is one way of reducing the battery mass.

The gravimetric energy density of liquid hydrocarbon fuels remain more than an order of magnitude better than the best battery technology (12 kWh/kg for aviation fuel versus 0.35 kWh/kg for Li-S). Even allowing for the relatively poor efficiency of internal combustion engines, onboard electric power generation remains a highly effective way of reducing the battery mass.

Existing solutions typically use a brushless DC electric motor configured as a generator as shown opposite.

All Millswood Engineering PMUs (Power Management Units) use this arrangement.

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