Building a more durable UAV

As part of my PhD, I'm trying to design and build a UAV. But the UAV needs to a bit durable than your average RC aircraft. Therefore I was thinking about building one from composite materials, Fibreglass, Carbon Fibre, etc. Does anyone have any expertise in this field?I prefer not to vacuum bag. So I'm thinking foam base with fibreglass fabric and epoxy. However, I would like to know the endurance of balsa construction, as well, the UAV I'm building needs to have a long rang (> 3KM).Also it needs all the bells-and-whistles, i.e. Cameras, GPS, Autopilot, FPV, etc. Therefore on top of standard manual RC controls, I'm thinking a PIC microcontroller or PC embedded system to transmit various readings to a ground terminal.

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  • Lots and Lots of good advice and ideas to follow through on, Thanks everyone. I'm still in 2 minds as to continuing this project. I might just skip doing this Phd and find a job somewhere else.
  • An inexpensive way to build a composite vehicle is to cut one out of foam. Once you have an airframe that meets your design goals (I highly doubt it will be your first attempt) cover the proven foam aircraft with 2oz glass and minimal amount of resin. Sand and recoat with filler until you have the finish you desire. Sometimes spending days/weeks/months obtaining the perfect finish does little more then add weight. A few pinholes will not hurt performance noticeably. I have had good luck with the West Systems family of products available at almost any boating store.
    -dave
  • For a really simple design and real toughness you cant go past Coroplast (in Australia we call it Coreflute). A really tough corogated plastic. You can buy sheets of 2mm, 3mm, 5mm etc. This is the same plastic stuff they on instant print out door signs - eg election campaign signs. I buy 1800mm X 1200mm sheets here for $10AUD (3.5mm thick).

    Go to www.spadtothebone.com and you will find heaps of free "Simple Plastic Aircraft Design" plans. I have built a few wings and various other shapes (see my photos) and I can tell you a spad is indestructable.

    Use super glue (crazy glue or Cyanoacrylate glue) this is real quick and real strong - I have found that only a few brands work, you may need to experiment.

    I am hoping to build a few more SPAD RC planes / UAVs in the next few months....
  • All good things to think about, actually, I was thinking of chucking in this project and choosing something different. I'm not very brainy or technically inclined and I think I would have bitten more than I could chew here.
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