Some view selectivity as a difficult personality trait, a challenge to back away from, but at Insitu we view it as an indispensable quality in our customers. We design and develop technology that allows you to conduct successful missions, and you rightfully have specific expectations and high standards for how that technology performs.
Providing you with a compromise-free solution is a driving concept for our new propulsion system, which has been designed for Insitu’s platforms by Orbital Australia Pty. Ltd. Orbital, founded as an engine innovation company, began working with our team on this project just a couple of years ago. Our teams have collaborated to integrate Orbital’s second generation Flexible Direct Injection (FlexDI) system into Insitu’s new engine. “We’ve been looking into applications for this technology that specifically require a reliable heavy fuel solution in a package that’s small, lightweight, and has a good power-to-weight ratio; so that’s why unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) benefit from our engine technology,” explained Geoff Cathcart, Chief Technical Officer at Orbital.
Again in Cathcart’s words, the aircraft “is equipped with an entirely new propulsion system, which comprises the Propulsion Module Unit (PMU) and the Fuel Module Unit (FMU).” These two elements are combined to ensure that we end up with the most robust and reliable propulsion solution for small unmanned aerial systems (SUAS).
The propulsion system was developed from a clean sheet, which essentially means that it began with an extensive list of requirements and a blank piece of paper. Starting from scratch allowed the engineers to create an optimized engine designed specifically to fit the requirements critical to unmanned platforms.
While many engine suppliers repurpose parts from other engine designs, Orbital has designed each component to ensure it is the most efficient and practical option for your mission needs. “We have control over nearly every component, so it can be completely customized,” Cathcart explains of the advantages of clean sheet design.
Our selectivity over each engine component from the design to the production stage significantly improves the overall reliability and performance of the engine. We have eliminated unnecessary parts that would be included in off-the-shelf items, tailoring the engine precisely to our products and our customers’ needs.
In addition to performing more efficiently, the engine is now able to track and communicate details of its operation throughout a mission. It communicates essential data during flight, and records a more detailed analysis that can be reviewed after the flight. This technology allows for persistent awareness of the engine’s health and performance.
Each mission is unique, making certain fuels preferable over others for our diverse customers. Our new propulsion system burns several types of commercial and military heavy fuels. We’ve provided you with these options so you can continue using the fuel type that works best for your mission and your location.
The design and development of this engine has not necessarily been an easy task. “Making the engine quiet, lightweight, and extremely reliable has been quite the balancing act,” Cathcart said. Despite the complexities of this project, the hard work and collaboration of Orbital and Insitu is paying off and has resulted in what Cathcart believes is “the most advanced propulsion system that’s been applied to a SUAS engine.” This results in a propulsion solution that is more reliable and meets the global demands for unmanned operations.