UAV could be most efficient yet

Posted by Kate Taylor

University of Colorado Boulder researchers say they've developed a UAV that flies farther and faster, and uses less fuel, than any other of its size.

The fuel efficiency of the 50-kilogram UAV's engine is already double that of similar-scale engines, and assistant professor Ryan Starkey says he hopes to double that efficiency again.

It could be  he says,for everything from penetrating and analyzing storms to military reconnaissance missions, as well as testing low-sonic-boom supersonic transport aircraft technology, which his team is working toward designing.

"I believe that what we're going to do is reinvigorate the testing world, and that's what we're pushing to do," says Starkey.

"The group of students who are working on this are very excited because we're not just creeping into something with incremental change, we're creeping in with monumental change and trying to shake up the ground."

The aircraft's thrust capacity makes it capable of reaching Mach 1.4, and Starkey says it will certainly break the world record for speed in its weight class.

The UAV's airframe is about five feet wide and six feet long, and it's expected to cost just $50,000 to $100,000. Starkey's created a company, Starcor, to commercialize it.

His team's currently creating a fully integrated and functioning engineering test unit, with the building of the aircraft application for FAA approval to follow next year.