Technology

“The future of air power is likely to be unmanned. It may also be surprisingly small.”
The Economist, 3rd September 2011

To make that future a reality, MapleBird are employing cutting edge technologies and clever innovations across a range of disciplines.

 

Flight Mechanism

The basis for the MapleBird UAV is a revolutionary breakthrough in the mechanism to drive flapping wings. This simple and elegant design facilitates flight control with negligible additional weight,  a key consideration when designing flying craft at this scale.

 

Power and Control Electronics

After a breakthrough in the design of the engine, an efficient and light way to power it then becomes paramount. MapleBird has developed highly sophisticated power electronics that are tightly integrated into the engine construction.

The control electronics for the craft are also very specialised. In this area, MapleBird has benefited from the rapid advances in electronics driven by the smart phone industry, as both have common requirements for high processing power of data and images coupled with the need for very low power consumption, size and weight. MapleBird has been able to source integrated chip-sets originally designed for smart phones  and this has been a key enabler in the development of  the UAV.

 

Cutting Edge Materials

Finding the right materials for this very unique product has been a considerable challenge.

MapleBird has worked closely with leading suppliers to select the optimal materials for each component of the construction. Even after these materials were identified, improved mechanical properties were necessary. This mandated research and collaboration with companies and universities across Europe to produce the strengthening additives necessary to fulfil the design specification.

MapleBird will continue to leverage advances in materials science to create new  generations of  UAVs with greater capability.

 

Computer Modelling

To rapidly iterate designs at this scale, MapleBird has constructed sophisticated Finite Element Analysis models for both the engine and the wings of the UAV. These models enable the rapid optimisation and testing of new design ideas in a simulated environment.

To perfect the aerodynamics of the craft, Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) will be used. Advances in the latest modelling techniques and step changes in the computational power provided by Graphical Processing Units (GPUs) allow this to be a practical option for a project of this size.

 

Integrated Design

For larger format aircraft, different sub assemblies can frequently be designed and constructed independently to be integrated at a later date.

This is not an option for nano UAV’s, as every component needs to be tightly integrated into the design. Weight is a critical consideration and this has made the sourcing of components a significant task. The challenges do not stop there, as flight dynamics and weight distribution need to be carefully considered when placing components on the printed circuit board.

Studies of insects have shown that many of their structures have multiple uses as nature optimises weight and utility at this scale. MapleBird engineers have been remarkably creative in how each component is used, with many elements of the design having more than one function.