This project consists of the design of a foldable quad-rotor UAV as a way to increase the possible applications of drones. Being foldable allows the mating to a cylindrical payload of a rocket or other aerial vehicle. High altitude deployment from a rocket or other aerial vehicle provides increased range and accessibility. The folding capability of the drone allows more options for deployment and modular storage. Applications for the project are numerous and include the following: urgent medicine delivery, geographical mapping, and atmospheric condition surveillance.
Proof of Concept
The general proof of concept for Team Three’s Folding Quadcopter will be testing how well it folds and subsequently deploys in a testing environment with repeating the folding process and then allowing for the drone arms to fold out. Along with this, the arms of the folding copter along with key joints will be tested in stress testing in which parts will be subjected to weights where these would be unaverage loads for the system to bear to simulate all possible conditions the Quadcopter may come under. These tests will assure, when the system as a whole is in flight, that if it does crash or land improperly, there will be very low chance of breakage.
The final design of the foldable quadcopter was fabricated with the product design specifications in mind. The final design consists of a frame that is 3D printed from a polylactic acid (PLA) material to ensure the reproduction costs remain low while providing sufficient strength to support the UAS inflight. Following the proof of concept testing, the team approved the folding hinge design as it proved the arms were able to redeploy continuously and provide sufficient strength to withstand forces experienced in deployment and flight. Drones are becoming a more advanced tool for applications like search and rescue, geographical mapping, and atmospheric condition surveying and seeding. The purpose of this project is to expand the possible applications of drones in any environment around the world. The foldable quadcopter design will be useful for these applications as it can be deployed at a higher altitude for increased flight time. The light, 3D printed airframe also allows for an increased payload weight to be included onboard. With many different payloads being able to be loaded onto the UAS frame, the possibility of applications being flown on the foldable quadcopter design is virtually endless.
The quad copter was constructed with four large arms shown below. These four would be screwed into a flight controller mount and capped off in place. Each component of the frame, excluding the electronics, was 3D printed with PLA plastic. Once constructed the motors would screw onto the arms by the motor holes. The ESCs would be zip tied to the arm underneath. The arm would be attached to the hinge base and a pin would be put through to hold them together. The motor wires would be soldered to the ESC. The power and signal wires for the ESC would feed through the small hole in the arm and then through the middle of the hinge base. Inside the main body, all four power wires are soldered to a central power distribution connected to the battery. The signal wares connect to the flight controller. The GPS and telemetry units are housed in the payload bay and connected to the flight controller. The landing feet are then zip tied to the flight controller housing.
Testing and Results
The test conducted to the quadcopter was its ability to fly in stable flight. To do so, we placed the quadcopter in a padded environment. The pilot armed the craft and slowly raised the throttle to the point of it being airborne. Some failures were presented. All of which were software issues that were ironed out. Initially, the flight controller offset was set forty-five degrees left rather than right. Than, the PID settings were too low and stable flight was not achieved. After tuning the quadcopter and correcting the offset, stable flight was achieved. A cylinder was constructed out of six inch PVC pipe to demonstrate how the quadcopter could fit inside. The quadcopter did so and slipped in and out easily. This project sought to find a solution to have an aerial deployed UAS from a rocket. The prototype proves the feasibility of the product to achieve this goal.
Meet the Team
Marshall is currently in his fourth year at the University of Nevada, Reno studying mechanical engineering and astronomy. He has had experience in the design and operation of unmanned aerial vehicles as president of the university’s ARLISS Club. As an Eagle Scout, Marshall has outdoor interest, spending winters skiing and summers swimming. After graduation, Marshall intends to get his master’s degree and work in the aerospace field.
Jon is currently in his fourth year at the University of Nevada, Reno majoring in Mechanical Engineering with an emphasis in Heat Systems. He has worked with the RHA leadership council in his first year as a member to work with leadership work within the dorms. Along with this, Jon has had 6 years of experience with drafting programs and machine shop work. Following graduation, Jon plans to enter the industry and work in the electric car industry and later return for a Master’s Degree and continue work in the electric automotive industry.
Chris is currently in his fourth year at the University of Nevada, Reno studying Mechanical Engineering and Mathematics. He is closely involved as secretary of the ARLISS club and a member of UNR’s AIAA chapter, which has allowed him to gain a lot of experience in designing and maintaining aerial systems. Following graduation, Chris plans to pursue a master’s degree in aerospace engineering and work in the aerospace field.
Matthew is a senior studying mechanical engineering with an emphasis in unmanned autonomous systems. He is the treasurer of the ARLISS club at the University of Nevada. He has a passion for all things that fly and intends to pursue a career in aviation upon graduating.
Micah is currently in his fourth year at the University of Nevada, Reno studying Mechanical Engineering who is originally from Las Vegas. He has had experience in being a volunteer Visual Observer for NASA’s UAV tests and currently works as a Math Tutor for the University of Nevada Math Center. After graduation, Micah intends to get his master’s degree and work in the aerospace field.
The team would like to acknowledge Mark Walker for his mentorship on this project.