In recent years, a renewed interest in the development of unmanned air vehicles (UAV’s) led to a wide range of interesting applications in the fields of reconnaissance and surveillance. In these types of mission, the noise produced by propeller driven UAVs is a major drawback, which can be partially solved by installing an electric motor to drive the propeller. The evolution of high performance brushless motors makes electric propulsion particularly appealing, at least for small and medium size UAVs. All electric propulsion systems developed to date are though characterized by the limited range/endurance that can be obtained with a reasonably sized battery pack. In this paper we propose a hybrid propulsion system based on recently developed, high efficiency micro-turbines which can be used to power an electric generator. The UMGT is under evaluation in our department, to achieve the optimal configuration and performances. For this scope a new compact regenerative combustion chamber has been developed and several tests has been carried out, with the aim to reduce weight and dimension and increase vehicle payload. In a high range/endurance mission the ultra-micro-turbine can provide the energy required for the cruise phase (the so-called “transfer to target”), while in the final approach, in which a quiet flight attitude is a demanding item, the battery pack drives the motor. The mission requirements adopted in the preliminary aircraft design presented here consist mainly of a long endurance (> 12 hours) step, with a cruise speed of 33.3 m/s and a dash speed of 45 m/s at an altitude of 5000 meters. The maximum take-off weight is 500 N, with a payload of 80 N. Under the above assumptions, a flying wing configuration for the UAV was defined, with a length of 1.6 meters and a span of 2.5 meters. A system of elevons assures the pitch and roll motion while a double vertical tail, in which a pusher propeller is lodged, guarantees the yaw stability and control.

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