Oregon-based, family-run Northwest UAV Propulsion Systems is developing a suite of technologies to boost the performance and lighten the load for small unmanned air systems (UAS).
Northwest provides gasoline and heavy fuel engines for variety of small UAS, including the Boeing/Insitu Scan Eagle and Integrator, as well as variable-pitch propellers, structural and skin components and rapid prototyping capabilities.
Along with a new 3d nylon printing process that has lightened the structural weight of the InSitu Inceptor by 30%, Northwest is building a hybrid-electric propulsion system for the US Air Force Research Laboratory under a one-year small business contract issued earlier this year. Aurora Flight Sciences also won an award to research the technology.
Under phase one of the project, to be completed in November, Northwest has built a prototype engine, which new product development lead Chris Pellegrino says will be a "very specialized" powerplant. "You will lose endurance and range, but gain the ability to run solely on electric," a feature that will allow for very quiet operations.
Aside from hybrid electric, the company is working on a host of other quiet technologies, including mufflers and propellers. Pellegrino says the company's quite muffler is now being used on the Scan Eagle and Integrator, and airframer Arcturus is evaluating the highly unusual carbon fiber propeller design to hush the T-20.