We are an interdisciplinary capstone team at UC Santa Barbara, and our goal is to design, build, and fly an aircraft powered by ionic propulsion.
Ionic propulsion is silent and has no moving parts!
Electrodes properly arranged and given thousands of volts will ionize and accelerate air molecules. Known as corona discharge, we can take advantage of this phenomenon to generate thrust. A power converter is used to step a 200V battery voltage up to the 40kV thruster drive voltage. The converter consists of an H-bridge, transformer, and Cockroft-Walton multiplier. Lithium-polymer cells are used as a lightweight power source.
Our final aircraft design, which we think can fly 1-2km in 4-8mins.
Our final, and best, unpowered glide. Fully laden with batteries and electronics, proved that we can fly straight and far.
Stallion prior to launch.
Converter holding 40kV, 525W with a 2.9Mohm resistor load! The resistor load emulates the thruster's steady state properties.
A better view of our converter test setup. In the center is the power converter. On the right is a plank of wood with a long string of resistors. And on the left are the main batteries that power the aircraft.
We gave ourselves 9 months to build the world's best ionic wind aircraft. In that time, we achieved a novel integrated airframe thruster design and showed that it flies stably and controllably, a working high voltage DC-DC power converter that delivered the power we needed, and a launcher that accurately accelerated the aircraft to its desired speed. There were multitudes of integrations between subsystems that we progressively designed out as the project matured. What we didn't do, is a powered flight of the aircraft. We ran out of time to fix a problem where the power converter would blow up when delivering the highest voltages to the thrusters. Throughout the year we overcame hundreds of problems - technical, logistical, and political - but the only problem that finally intervened was time. We believe this is the best ionic wind aircraft design ever, and are seeking to put together a new group to continue this journey.
Converter analog lead
Converter digital lead
Kyle de la O
Thank you to our sponsors for funding, advising, and encouraging our project!
ECE Capstone Advisor: Prof. Ilan Ben-Yaacov - firstname.lastname@example.org
ME Capstone Advisor: Prof. Tyler Susko - email@example.com
Team Contact: Mihir Shevgaonkar - firstname.lastname@example.org
Prof. Ilan Ben-Yaacov
Prof. Tyler Susko
Prof. Mark Rodwell
Prof. Elliot Hawkes
Dr. Jim Honea
Dr. Haofeng Xu
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