Lightweight Drone Manufactured with Carbon Fiber Composites

By Mike Ball / 21 Jul 2021
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Hexcel’s HexPly carbon fiber prepregs have been used in the development of a composite drone created by a team of students from the University of Applied Sciences Upper Austria in Wels, with composite materials supplied by Hexcel Neumarkt in Austria.

The team of six students, enrolled in the university’s lightweight construction and composite materials course, undertook the complete design, engineering, and manufacture of the camera-carrying drone over a period of 18 months. Hexcel materials and optimization of the composite engineering enabled the team to reduce the composite structural mass by 42% compared to similar drones.

Hexcel Neumarkt was one of eight industrial partners supporting the team throughout the project, providing all carbon fiber prepreg materials used for the drone’s landing gear as well as the fuselage. The ultra-lightweight landing gear, weighing just 32 grams, was laid up and cured in a press, whereas the fuselage was autoclave-cured by the student team using Hexcel HexPly M901 and HexPly M78.1 prepreg resin systems, with a combination of woven and unidirectional carbon fiber reinforcements.

With the development of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) as a key emerging market and innovation space in the transportation sector, Hexcel’s collaboration with the University of Applied Sciences Upper Austria team not only creates an important link with the next generation of lightweight composite engineers but also highlights the weight saving and structural benefits of the company’s composite material solutions.

Michael Rabl, Dean of FH Wels of the Upper Austria University of Applied Sciences, commented: “The massive weight saving achieved with their updated version of the camera drone is a fantastic achievement by the student team. The joint study not only illustrates the wide range of complex and innovative composite techniques present in the drone sector but also presents the opportunities that exist for further development in the wider Urban Air Mobility (UAM) and aerospace composites markets.”

Johanna Arndt, research and technology group leader at Hexcel Neumarkt, said: “It was a great pleasure to work with the team who were very cooperative and self-motivated to succeed. Watching the drone just fly around the Neumarkt plant was just great.”

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