ACG's Prepreg Materials Being Used to Make UAVs for Antarctic Ice Sheet Mapping Mission

MTM45-1 prepreg material from Advanced Composites Group (ACG), part of Umeco Composites Structural Materials (UCSM) - a Division of Umeco plc, have been used in an exciting project by Kansas University's school of Aerospace Engineering (KUAE) to build a fleet of Meridian unmanned air vehicles (UAVs) destined to monitor the flow of ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica.

KUAE selected ACG's MTM45-1 for the Meridian's wings, empennage and fuselage structure because its combination of properties makes it ideal for the out-of-autoclave (OoA) production of aircraft primary structures. Indeed, MTM45-1 has a flexible curing temperature, high performance and toughened epoxy matrix system optimised for low pressure vacuum bag processing.

Members of the KUAE flight test team. Courtesy and copyright of KUAE flight test team.

MTM45-1 may be cured at temperatures as low as 80°C (176°F), allowing the use of low cost tooling for prototypes and short production runs. OoA process cost savings for aircraft manufacturers can equally be applied to other less critical structures such as fairings, which are normally produced via autoclave curing. MTM45-1 can also be autoclave cured, meaning that it can be used for more critical structures.

A flame-retarded variant of MTM45-1 (MTM45-1FR) is also available and has been shown to meet the requirements of
FAR 25.853.

Under a 5-year, $19 million research grant from the National Science Foundation to Kansas University's Center for Remote Sensing of Ice Sheets (CReSIS), KUAE's mission was to provide an aerial platform for ultra-sensitive ice-penetrating radar developed in Kansas University's Electrical Engineering and Computer Science department. Information on the morphology of the ice, especially the condition of the ice where it meets bedrock, is being derived from radar data, which is improving glaciologist's predictions of the flow of ice sheets into the oceans.

The Meridian UAV, developed by a team of current and former students under the guidance of faculty members, including Rick Hale, Shah Keshmiri, Mark Ewing, Dave Downing, Ray Taghavi and Richard Colgren, will operate in Greenland between July and August 2011 and then in Antarctica between December 2011 and January 2012.

Images courtesy and copyright of KUAE flight test team:

  • Upper image: Meridian unmanned air vehicle (UAV) in flight
  • Lower image: Members of the KUAE flight test team

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