Semester of Graduation

Fall 2020


Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering (MSME)


Mechanical Engineering

Document Type



Hybrid-Electric aircraft powertrain modeling for Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) is a useful tool for predicting powertrain performance of the UAS aircraft. However, for small UAS, potential gains in range and endurance can depend significantly on the aircraft flight profile and powertrain control logic in addition to the subsequent impact on the performance of powertrain components. Small UAS aircraft utilize small-displacement engines with poor thermal efficiency and, therefore, could benefit from a hybridized powertrain by reducing fuel consumption. This study uses a dynamic simulation of a UAS, representative flight profiles, and powertrain control logic approaches to evaluate the performance of a series hybrid-electric powertrain. Hybrid powertrain component models were developed using lookup tables of test data and model parameterization approaches to generate a UAS dynamic system model. These models were then used to test three different hybrid powertrain control strategies for their ability to provide efficient IC engine operation during the charging process.

The baseline controller analyzed in this work does not focus on optimizing fuel efficiency. In contrast, the other two controllers utilize engine fuel consumption data to develop a scheme to reduce fuel consumption during the battery charging operation. The performance of the powertrain controllers is evaluated for a UAS operating on three different representative mission profiles relevant to cruising, maneuvering, and surveillance missions. Fuel consumption and battery state of charge form two metrics that are used to evaluate the performance of each controller. The first fuel efficiency-focused controller is the ideal operating line (IOL) strategy. The IOL strategy uses performance maps obtained by engine characterization on a specialized dynamometer. The simulations showed the IOL strategy produced average fuel economy improvements ranging from 12%-15% for a 30-minute mission profile compared to the baseline controller. The last controller utilizes fuzzy logic to manage the charging operations while maintaining efficient fuel operation where it produced similar fuel saving to the IOL method but were generally higher by 2-3%. The importance of developing detailed dynamic system models to capture the power variations during flight with fuel-efficient powertrain controllers is key to maximizing small UAS hybrid powertrain performance in varying operating conditions.

Committee Chair

Shyam Menon