New UAV Designs Transform, Cooperate, and Sun Sail


All patent graphics: USPTO [moderator edit]

Some unusual new design schemes for UAVs were recently granted US patents.

"Designs for morphing and articulating UAVs are among some of the latestest patents approved by the US Patent and Trademark Office. One is a Boeing patent for a lifting-body UAV with telescoping wing.


Concentric wing sections extend for a low-speed, high-lift configuration and retract flush with the airframe for high speed and low lift. Russian aircraft designer Ivan Makhonine flew the telescoping-wing MAK-10 in 1931, but Boeing's patent goes a step further and envisions extendable foreplanes, vertical tails - and variable-geometry telescoping wings...


Another Boeing patent is for a solar-powered UAV capable of continuous operation at northern latitudes and during winter months, when sunlight is in short supply.


The aircraft has a planar "solar sail", with solar cells on one side, mounted so it can rotate around the aircraft's roll axis to track the elevation of the Sun while the vehicle remains horizontal. The X-tail also has solar cells on one side and rotates to track the Sun while providing pitch and yaw control of the vehicle.


One final patent, awarded to Virginia-based Geoffrey Summer, is for a "skybase" system of forming a high-latitude UAV from multiple smaller aircraft. These "modular flyers" would be air-launched individually and would join up, wingtip to wingtip, to form a larger "articluated-wing"vehicle - the more that join the higher it can fly.


As illustrated above (right), individual flyers could fail and the skybase would reform and keep flying. Additionally, individual flyers could be detached from the formation and despatched to take a closer look at a target before returning to rejoin the skybase."

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  • The basic concept behind the sky base is to have smaller planes which are easy to manufacture come together to create a larger plane that is able to fly at much higher altitudes than any of the smaller planes could by themselves.

    This means that during strong gusting or multi mission tasks the planes could break apart into different parts as necessary. Payload is also spread out amoung the planes to reduce risk of damage and make it easy to repair.
  • Shannon. That's a demand that should be met through investment in innovation in power systems, not stringing a few kites together and calling it "new".

    As far as I'm concerned it's overkill on a really dull and completely unoriginal concept - but each to their own = )
  • John, I beg to differ. At the moment, there is tremendous demand for UAVs capable of long-term sustained flight for a variety of applications. Almost all these designs (some of which are actively testing) are basically ultra-wide flying wings.

    The skybase model seems (to me) to be a novel solution for launching and landing this type of craft.

    Detachable fuel & surveillance pods, updating the hardware without landing etc...
  • The skybase looks utterly ridiculous, its more like a hive having a group hug at 30,000 ft.

    I can't believe they'd patent this junk, it only proves that too much money and time does nothing to enhance original thinking.
  • I love the weird designs I wonder if any of them will ever be put to use.
  • Yes, I just skimmed the patent

    It appears to encompass a broad (vague) range of mechanical solutions to accomplish this (as any strong, well composed patent should).

    I am still clueless as to how on earth this would actually work. Perhaps you can offer a brief technical description or a web link?
  • I actually work with Geoffrey if anyone has any questions about his skybase system.
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