Our team is a student initiative from RWTH Aachen University that is developing an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) for emergency and natural disaster response. we are composed of students from a variety of disciplines, including aerospace engineering, computer science, and electrical engineering. We are passionate about developing an UAV that can provide rapid assistance in emergency situations and aid in the aftermath of natural disasters. Our team is dedicated to perfecting our design and ensuring that our UAV will be a valuable tool for responders in the future.
In the past, natural disasters have left communities devastated in their wake. However, with the help of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), disaster response teams are now able to quickly and effectively assess the damage and provide aid. UAVs are able to fly into areas that are too dangerous for humans to enter and provide live footage of the disaster area. This allows response teams to identify the areas that are most in need of assistance. UAVs are also equipped with sensors that can detect things like heat, gas, and radiation. This information is critical in determining the best way to respond to a disaster. What makes UAVs truly invaluable is their ability to reach areas that are otherwise inaccessible. This means that aid can be delivered to those who need it the most, regardless of where they are. In the wake of a natural disaster, every second counts. UAVs are often the difference between life and death. With their help, more and more people are surviving disasters that would have previously claimed many lives.
We are developing an UAV with a wingspan of 4.2 m that can either hover over an area for hours or rush to a specific point up to 100 km away in the shortest possible time. We use a VTOL concept and an aerodynamically optimized airframe for this purpose.
Our prototype has several features that give it new capabilities generally not found in other civilian UAVs.
We use the same actuators and motors for horizontal and vertical flight. This means that we do not use hardware that is only usable for one of the two flight modes. This is achieved by a twin-engine configuration with the actuators in nacelles at the wingtips. Similar to a tiltwing, the outer third of the wing tilts during the transition from horizontal to vertical flight. Since the motor nacelles are fixed to the wingtips, they rotate with them and provide the necessary thrust for hovering in a bicopter configuration. This tilt mechanism is actuated separately on both sides by a guide gear, which improves the resolution and holding torque of the actuators and can also function as an aileron in horizontal flight. For a controllable hover, at least 4 degrees of freedom are necessary, two are operated by the thrust control of the engines, the others come from a novel concept to vary the pitch angle of propeller blades cyclically, completely without swashplate and additional actuators, only by controlling the engine torque.
In a crisis scenario, the cell phone network infrastructure may be damaged and not usable for video or telemetry transmission. A direct radio link requires almost direct line of sight to the aircraft, which cannot be guaranteed. Satellite communication, on the other hand, is possible even in bad weather conditions and can therefore be ideally combined with our UAV. This is made possible by a new generation of starlink antennas, which were recently released and can also reach a satellite with their phase array from a moving platform. This form of communication with the drone also allows the use of sensors with a high bandwidth requirement, such as high-resolution cameras.
In order to obtain a good picture of the situation, good video reconnaissance is indispensable. A high zoom level and good video stabilization is necessary for this. Typically, you have to make a compromise, as large lenses do not work well with gimbals. In our system, the camera is fixed in the fuselage and the image guidance and stabilization is done via several movable mirrors. This has the additional advantage that all components can be aerodynamically clad and thus do not cause any additional air resistance.
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