By Lauren Nagel
Cover photo by Richard Hann
Anyone who relies on propellers for their work or hobby has reason to celebrate the recent collaboration between UBIQ Aerospace and Mejzlik Propellers, announced on March 30, 2021. The two companies, based in Norway and Czechia respectively, are collaborating to develop a system that will prevent ice accretion on aircraft and drone propellers. “The objective is to provide an ice protected propeller for sustained flight in atmospheric icing conditions”, says Kim Lynge Sørensen, founder and CEO of UBIQ Aerospace.
UBIQ Aerospace specializes in ice protection systems for aircraft and leans on many years of research and experience to inform their solutions. Their D•ICE technology is the only autonomous icing protection solution available for unmanned aircraft. The system uses both anti-icing and de-icing technology to offer a solution that optimizes ice protection and efficiency to prolong drone endurance.
Figure 1: The D•ICE technology concept
The collaboration aims to develop a propeller that incorporates UBIQ Aerospace’s proprietary technologies into Mejzlik’s renowned propellers.
Mejzlik Propellers has been in the manufacturing business for decades, with products for both electrical and combustion engines. Over the years Mejzlik has stepped out of their comfort zone numerous times, developing propellers for a wide range of uses including planes, helicopters, wind turbines, and heavy-lift drones. With extensive experience in custom-designed propellers, Mejzlik is the ideal partner for this development project.
Figure 2: Mejzlik 40” x 13.3” multicopter propeller
The two companies hope to work together to solve the problem of in-flight propeller icing, which occurs when supercooled water droplets freeze to the leading edge of the propeller. This can lead to reduced performance and even loss of the aircraft if the icing occurs at a high altitude or beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS).
A key part of their R&D process is determining how and when icing takes a toll on the propeller. A small amount of ice accumulation might not doom the aircraft, but performance will decline more and more with the build-up. Preliminary results collected using an icing wind tunnel and the Series 1780 test stand demonstrated that icing can reduce propeller performance by up to 40% within the first minute.
Figure 3: Ice-coated propeller tested with the Series 1780 test stand
These preliminary results emphasize the need for high-performance propellers that can avoid ice build-up during sustained flights, a crucial characteristic for commercial drones involved in high-stakes operations. This partnership promises to bring new and effective solutions to the industry to address this critical issue.