A Brief Analysis of Advantages of Aircraft Micro Turbine Engines Over Piston Engines
The growth of the aircraft micro turbine engine industry has been congruent to the increase in the demand for unmanned aerial vehicles. There are various features of aircraft micro turbine engines which make them better as compared to conventional engines. Certain advantages such as high power-to-weight ratio, higher stability, and more efficiency make micro turbine engines ideal for unmanned aerial vehicles and small aircraft.
The development of unmanned aerial vehicles and drones has widened the scope of aeronautical design and engineering. It has triggered new inventions and innovations which can suit the needs of contemporary flight dynamics and can power these drones. The design and development of aircraft micro turbine engines in the last few years forms part of this same trend.
Aircraft Micro Turbine Engines and Their Advantages
Almost all traditional aircraft run on turbine propulsion systems that power their entire flight. However, until now, relatively small aircraft like unmanned aerial vehicles or even smaller manned aircraft didn’t have an effective turbine propulsion. Instead, these vehicles were powered by reciprocating or piston engines; the main disadvantage of this type of engine is that these engines do not have the capacity to carry heavy loads over long distances. As a result of this limiting factor, manned and unmanned aerial vehicles could not be used for long distance communication and transport. Hence, to overcome this challenge and to realize the full potential of manned and unmanned aerial vehicles, aircraft micro turbine engines were devised.
Aircraft micro turbine engines essentially use the power that is generated through the continuous burning of the fuel along with compressed air. Hence, these systems are innately more efficient than piston engines. Due to this crucial advantage of increased efficiency, many of the aircraft manufacturers have turned away from reciprocating engines and shifted to aircraft micro turbine engines. Thus, the rise in demand for unmanned aerial vehicles has become congruent to a growth in the global aircraft micro turbine engine market.
Apart from the basic benefit mentioned above, aircraft micro turbine engines are a notch above reciprocal engines in several aspects. Firstly, micro turbine engines are compact in design which makes them perfect for unmanned aerial vehicles. Moreover, micro turbine engines weigh much less than piston engines and offer a thrust of up to 1500 N. This unique combination of low weight and high thrust gives the unmanned aerial vehicle the ability to travel for a longer distance that too with a higher load. Also, the high power-to-weight ratio makes these engines perfect for gliders and experimental airplanes. Furthermore, the maximum speeds that can be achieved with the help of airplane micro turbine engines is much more than what can be achieved by conventional engines.
Aircraft micro turbine engines also generate electrical power that is 2-3 times greater than what conventional piston engines generate. This makes the engine more efficient and less prone to engine failures. Moreover, another important advantage of aircraft micro turbine engines is that they are much easier to manufacture as compared to piston engines; this is an important benefit as the growing demand for unmanned aerial vehicles can be easily met by augmenting the production of aircraft micro turbine production.
As compared to conventional piston engines, aircraft micro turbine engines offer less vibration. As a result, the wear and tear on other components of the unmanned aerial vehicle is less and hence the aerial vehicle can operate for a longer period of time. Additionally, due to lesser vibrations, the overall stability of the aerial vehicle increases exponentially which increases the ability of the vehicle to fly at higher altitudes.
There is one important feature associated with aircraft micro turbine engines; the power controls and systems in the aerial vehicle with micro turbine engines are much simpler than those associated with piston engines. This becomes an important advantage for manned aerial vehicles as the pilot can easily maneuver the aircraft.
The Bottom Line
The various advantages and features offered by aircraft micro turbine engines make it ideal for small aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicles. In the last few years, keeping in mind the growing demand for unmanned aerial vehicles, research has been initiated to design micro turbine engines using different fuels and power sources. For example, some companies have succeeded in developing micro turbine engines that run on natural gas. Such innovations are expected to widen the scope of the aircraft micro turbine engine industry in the coming few years.
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