Locust USA and U.S. Army to collaborate on development of technology for UAVs

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Through its wholly-owned subsidiary UAV Turbines, Inc. (UAVT), Locust USA, Inc has entered into a $19 million Technology Investment Agreement (TIA) with the U.S. Army to collaborate on the development of an “efficient and reliable/durable small turboprop gas turbine engine” for propulsion in the UAV space.

The development goals surround engine capabilities beneficial to both military and commercial markets. This initiative is part of the Army’s “Reliable Advanced Small Power Systems (RASPS) Technology Demonstration” program. The goal of the program is to design, manufacture and test a “200 shp class advanced technology engine to technical readiness level (TRL) 6.”

“We’re honored to have been selected to participate with the Army in the effort to create more effective UAV propulsion systems” says Kirk M. Warshaw, CEO of UAVT.

“We share the Army’s recognition that the propulsion system is the key enabling technology for future UAV’s and the foundation on which other technologies will depend.”

Fred Frigerio, UAVT’s Senior VP, adds, “this RASPS development project will demonstrate clear advantages in our technology for military as well as commercial and industrial customers. It is a unique and very challenging technology to develop, but given our successful 10 hp and 50 hp turbine systems, we are confident that we can meet the Army’s goals.”

The fundamental technology for development of the “more advanced 200 shp class turbine engine” that RASPS will develop over the next five years has been demonstrated in UAVT’s UTP50R propulsion system, a “50 hp class turbine engine with a recuperator, high-speed gearbox, variable-pitch propeller, and Full Authority Digital Engine Control (FADEC).”

Dan Mikkelson, UAVT’s Chief Design Engineer, says that “the planned advanced technology RASPS engine demonstrator system will increase power to the 200 shp class (with 5 kW or more of electric power) and provide even further advances in performance over the UTP50R in a high reliability, long life engine system.”

Mikkelson adds, “the RASPS program is targeting performance goals that include higher power-to-weight ratio and lower Brake Specific Fuel Consumption (BSFC), using advanced concepts, materials, and system optimization. A special focus will be on technology that greatly improves reliability over conventional engine systems.”