Earlier in 2021, UBIQ Aerospace and Mejzlik Propellers launched a collaboration to develop an ice protection solution for unmanned aircraft propellers. Norway-based UBIQ Aerospace is developing a complete solution to enhance the capabilities of UAS (Unmanned Aircraft Systems) and AAM (Advanced Air Mobility) industries, while Czech-based Mejzlik is a leading provider of propellers for the industry. The objective of the partnership is to provide an ice protected propeller for sustained flight in atmospheric icing conditions.
The D•ICE technology developed by UBIQ Aerospace includes an electrothermal system that through a hybrid heating approach prevents and eliminates ice accumulation. Integrated into Mejzlik propellers, the system heats the propeller blades and protects them against the icing risk.
This summer, the D•ICE technology integrated into Mejzlik propellers was tested at a wind tunnel in VTT, Technical Research Centre of Finland. The results are promising.
– The experiments showed that the prototype was successfully able to prevent significant amounts of ice from collecting on the propeller, and hence prevent performance losses, said Richard Hann, Head of Aerodynamics at UBIQ Aerospace.
In-flight icing occurs when an aircraft encounters clouds consisting of supercooled liquid droplets. Earlier research shows that UAV propellers are very sensitive to icing. Icing significantly reduces the propeller’s performance, and the ice breaking off causes instability and vibrations that could lead to the loss of the aircraft within minutes.
The icing wind tunnel is designed to generate the same conditions that a UAV would encounter inside an icing cloud. In Helsinki, three different heated Mejzlik propellers were tested in different icing conditions and temperatures.
Mejzlik has been developing and manufacturing high-quality propellers since 1974. The need for an ice protection solution is a request they have received from many of their customers.
– The way to create an efficient and industrially produced propeller de-icing system for unmanned aircrafts is challenging, but not impossible. We are extremely pleased and appreciate the cooperation with UBIQ. The result of our joint efforts will significantly improve the operational capabilities and safety of unmanned vehicles, said Jiri Bukvald, Head of Technology at Mejzlik Propellers.
The partners will continue to develop and mature the technology, with further wind tunnel testing planned later this year.
– We are very excited about our collaboration with Mejzlik and look forward to further developing the technology into something that is easily manufactured in a scalable manner and that will provide the crucial capabilities to the end user, said Kasper T. Borup, CTO and co-founder of UBIQ Aerospace.