The University of Denver’s (DU) Unmanned Systems Research Institute (DU2SRI) in the US is currently researching how to improve UAV technology by enabling shorter take-offs while increasing payload and overall flight times.

In order to enhance the lift of the UAV, lead research scientist Kostas Kanistras applied a new ‘circulation control’ technique to enable the air in the belly of the aircraft to be circulated to the wings, subsequently improving the aerodynamics and overall performance of the UAV.

Although Nasa has done research on circulation control, it was never applied to smaller aircraft.

"Enhancing the lift capability of an aircraft allows you to take-off from the ground faster."

Kanistras said: “Enhancing the lift capability of an aircraft allows you to take-off from the ground faster; you can carry more payload and actually change the aerodynamic efficiency of an aircraft.

“This allows you to burn less fuel or use less battery, so you can have cheaper and greener flights.

“What makes our design important is that we are not only optimising it for one specific application, we are optimising the aircraft to be able to be applied for different tasks."

Electrical and computer engineering research and innovation director Professor Kimon Valavanis and associate computer science professor Matt Rutherford served as Kanistras’ advisers.

Kanistras was encouraged to design the wings, conduct simulations, build and test the wings in a wind tunnel, as well as construct a full-scale model of the wings, and conduct test flights. Researchers intend to take the programme further after using the results of the test flights.

They expect to programme the aircraft so that it can perform multiple tasks, and if required, change the mission of the aircraft during mid-flight.

Image: A UAV design developed at DU's Unmanned Systems Research Institute, US. Photo: courtesy of the University of Denver.