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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Self Assembly of Curved Surfaces from Smart Composites for Small Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (SUAVs)

  • Author(s): Abdul Majit, Mohamad Ramzi
  • Advisor(s): Tolley, Michael T.
  • et al.

Small unmanned aerial vehicles (SUAVs) are used in today's world for mapping, surveillance, recreation, environmental monitoring, delivery, and structural maintenance. Typical manufacturing methods of UAVs limit rapid prototyping due to the use of expensive components and rigid designs. An expansion of laminate manufacturing will provide an alternative to this complex method of 3D UAV construction.

Current self-folding techniques based on laminate manufacturing produce structures with greater strength to weight ratios, faster fabrication times, and lower fabrication costs but are incapable of generating continuous enclosed curved structures. This thesis describes an expansion on laminate manufacturing that utilize laminate buckling to create curved structures. A smart composite is constructed by sandwiching a shape memory polymer (SMP) with structural layers and two parallel constrained laminates. When the polymer is activated, the contraction induces buckling along adjacent laminate surfaces generating predefined curved structures. Stronger actuator force, expanding foam, and epoxy layering are explored to increase stiffness of curved surfaces.

Using the approach described, SUAVs can be constructed using low cost materials, assembled in two dimensions, and optimized for specific environmental conditions. The most important feature of flight is lift, and the capability of lift is due to the design of airfoil profiles. Minor adjustments to a planar laminate design can create various National Advisory Committee of Aeronautics (NACA) airfoils by overlaying layers of laminate material, heat activated SMP, and hardening epoxy to morph a layered composite into a stiff curved structure.

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