Australian based engineering company Orbital Corporation, has won a major contract to supply a new engine for a pilotless military aircraft.
The innovative engine, will overcome some of the limitations faced by other engines currently used in the aircrafts, otherwise known as ‘drones’.
Specialising in providing Engine and Vehicle Systems, Perth based Orbital has been contracted to supply its Heavy Fuel Engine (HFE) – nicknamed internally as ‘the Redback’ by Orbital staff – to American unmanned aircraft systems manufacturer AAI, a Textron Inc. company.
Worth up to $4.7 million throughout 2012, the contract is the result of a two-year effort by Orbital to perfect a tiny two-stroke engine that can run reliably on military specified heavy fuels while meeting aggressive fuel economy, weight and noise reduction targets.
“Key to our engineering team’s success with the Redback has been the use of Orbital’s patented FlexDI™ fuel injection and engine management system,” said Orbital’s Director of Engineering, Geoff Cathcart.
“FlexDI™ differs from conventional direct injection systems because it injects the fuel at comparatively low pressure and utilises air pressure to atomise the mixture as it is delivered to the combustion chamber. The system provides electronic lubrication control for reliability and its greater fuel efficiency extends the flight range of the SUAS by up to 40 per cent, or allows AAI to increase the payload,” (Release).
According to the report, most small unmanned aerial vehicles use conventional gasoline-powered two-stroke engines, which the US military and NATO are currently moving to phase-out, due to excess fuel consumption, noisiness and unreliable operations.
Orbital’s HFE Redback is a single-cylinder engine constructed of lightweight materials and will fit in a shoebox. To reduce noise, the engineering department refined the engine block, exhaust system, speed of revolution and propeller design.
“This is a good example of Australian innovation and demonstrates our engineering and product development capabilities. The requirement for the small unmanned aerial systems market is growing fast and we look forward to realising this potential,” said Orbital CEO and Managing Director, Terry Stinson.
Orbital is widely known for its engine development work for the automotive and recreational vehicle industries. Its FlexDI™ technology has been installed to more than 650,000 scooters, all-terrain vehicles, marine outboards and auto-rickshaws worldwide since 1996 and is considered a technical benchmark in the automotive sector.