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Propulsion standards for unmanned aircraft

Because there are a wide variety of small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) designs, and because the powerplants of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) vary greatly, unmanned aerospace vehicles feature propulsion systems that differ significantly from each other, and from those of powering manned vehicles.  With the production of unmanned aircraft proliferating, safety is critical, and after extensive review, no consensus standards on unmanned aircraft propulsion have been identified.

Until now. SAE International’s recently-formed E-39 Unmanned Air Vehicle Propulsion System Committee will hold its first official meeting in late May.

This committee, with responsibility for developing and maintaining standards for unmanned vehicle propulsion systems, was formed in response to the need for industry propulsion standards written specifically for unmanned aircraft.

The E-39 committee will categorize propulsion system types as they relate to airframes (rotary or fixed wing, for example) and develop appropriate classifications and distinctions.  They will also identify experts in each propulsion system type and class, and in the vehicles in which they are to be installed.  After a review of existing applicable SAE standards, the committee will identify the need for standards for specification and testing of propulsion system properties (weight, reliability, durability) and coordinate the development of new standards with industry, regulatory agencies, and other stakeholders.

Stakeholders include engine manufacturers, motor manufacturers, suppliers, airframers, researchers, academia, and regulators.

The committee’s scope includes both chemical and electrical propulsion and the supporting systems, including engines, servo actuators, fuel, motors, electronic speed controllers, batteries, propellers, wiring, connectors, plumbing, filler valves, filters, pumps, propeller balancing rigs, test stands, thrust measurement rigs, and flight management controllers for energy efficient flight.

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