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Ice Protection Developed for Drone Propellers

By Mike Ball / 22 Apr 2021
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Drone propeller with ice

Mejzlik Propellers has entered into an agreement with UBIQ Aerospace to develop an ice protection solution for UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) propellers.

UBIQ Aerospace has previously focused on ice protection for aerodynamic surfaces. However, in order to develop a solution for a wide variety of use cases in the UAS and UAM (urban air mobility) industries, equal focus must also be placed on propellers and exposed sensors. The collaboration with Mejzlik, who have decades of experience in propeller design and manufacture, will see the adaptation of both existing and novel proprietary technological concepts to the propeller de-icing challenge.

The collaboration between UBIQ and Mejzlik began with the master’s thesis of Nicolas Müller at the University of Stuttgart, which centred around the study of icing on propellers. Mejzlik provided the propellers that were used in early icing wind tunnel experiments. Müller is now extending his work through his Ph.D. research at UBIQ and the Norwegian University of Science and Technology.

Preliminary results from Müller’s research show that the fast rotation of UAV propellers makes them very sensitive to icing. Experiments conducted in an icing wind tunnel showed that icing reduced the propeller’s performance by up to 40% within the first minute. Ice building on propellers also carries an additional hazard – it can break off asymmetrically on individual propeller blades, causing instability and considerable vibrations that could be highly dangerous for the aircraft.

Kim Lynge Sørensen, founder and CEO of UBIQ Aerospace, said: “The scope is to create a propeller that incorporates some of our proprietary technologies and leverages the considerable competencies of Mejzlik in propeller design and manufacturing. The objective is to provide an ice protected propeller for sustained flight in atmospheric icing conditions.”

“To provide a complete solution that will protect the whole aircraft from icing, we need to protect the propeller. With the collaboration we have started with Mejzlik, we are taking the next necessary steps towards a holistic ice protection solution.”

Jan Hruska, VP of sales at Mejzlik Propellers, said: “We understand that in order to become no. 1, we need to be very flexible in terms of taking on new projects which are based on the UAV market’s requirements. Collaborating on the ice protection solution with UBIQ Aerospace has given us the opportunity to look closer into the icing issue, which has been an ongoing problem for many of our customers.”

“We want to make sure our propellers stay efficient in all weather conditions and when UBIQ had briefed us on their unique ice protection solutions, we knew that this was a project we wanted to be a part of.”

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Posted by Mike Ball Mike Ball is our resident technical editor here at Unmanned Systems Technology. Combining his passion for teaching, advanced engineering and all things unmanned, Mike keeps a watchful eye over everything related to the unmanned technical sector. With over 10 years’ experience in the unmanned field and a degree in engineering, Mike’s been heading up our technical team here for the last 8 years. Connect & Contact