Discipline: Technology and Engineering
Subcategory: Environmental Engineering
Liana Gutierrez - New Mexico State University
Designing technology for application in the southwest elicits an appreciation for and a tendency to incorporate those resources that are both sustainable and abundant; in this case, sunlight. Similarly, range-land monitoring focuses on proper stewardship of many other environmental resources such as vegetation, wildlife, soil and water systems. Thus, the objective of this project – to design and build a remote-controlled solar plane for the purpose of range-land monitoring – stems from the same philosophy that prompted consideration of sustainability in design. The plane (hereafter referred to as an unmanned aerial vehicle, UAV) integrates photo-voltaic cells on the wings to allow it to cruise for long periods of time during the day offering an inexpensive and efficient platform for range-land monitoring. The UAV’s ability to carry a payload of up to 5 lbs weighed heavily in the final determination of an optimal design with respect to wing area, wing aspect ratio, and solar cell placement. Ultimately, a design based on a low airspeed for minimum power consumption was favored over a design with high wing loading. Low airspeed provides an added advantage in that it will enable the UAV to more accurately assess and record, via cameras and/or sensors, the range-land conditions. A half-scale prototype of the design was built based on CAD drawings to evaluate the aerodynamic performance and handling characteristics. The half-scale testing proved the design would meet the requirements of the intended application. At present, construction of the fuselage and wing (of the full-size model) is mostly finished and focus is shifting toward development and assembly of the wing-mount and the landing gear. Questions regarding diversification and range of application shall be explored after final testing.
Funder Acknowledgement(s): National Science Foundation, New Mexico Alliance for Minority Participation.
Faculty Advisor: Andreas Gross, firstname.lastname@example.org
Role: I participated in fabrication of the fuselage and wings for the full-scale model. I was also responsible for researching photo-voltaic cells as the placement/arrangement plays an important role in the conversion efficiency of the plane.