Uranus UAV

Uranus UAV


Justin Krofta

Phillip Reyes

James Dreas

Joseph Kirwen

For the most up-to-date information, visit the students project website.

UAV for Study of the Planet Uranus

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) have flight heritage on Earth; few have made it to other planets in our solar system. Probes have been sent to many other planets but have been limited to parachute-dropped probes. These probes have only been restricted to taking data from a single point on a globe. To illustrate, imagine dropping a probe in the Saharan Desert or in the Arctic circle here on Earth. These environments and landscapes hardly capture what Earth has to offer as a whole. An Automated UAV that is able to fly and operate in other atmospheres will give scientists much better observations into a planet’s environment compared to their parachute-dropped predecessors. 

UAV Requirements

(1)minimum endurance 100 hrs
(2)range coverage 3000 km

pressure range0.2 bar - 20 bar
 This pressure range corresponds to an altitude range of 170.8 km. 

Building the Atmospheric Model

The atmosphere on Uranus has been studied by many different scientists. Using frequency occultation, scientists can gather data around the outer thermosphere but getting accurate data below pressure altitudes of 1 bar are more difficult. Many assumptions and extrapolations combined with telescope observations have produced a variety of different atmospheric models.  In order to design an aircraft that will fly on Uranus, an Atmospheric Model must be agreed upon. Using the similarities found in different models and consulting with Dr Raymond Lebeau, who has researched and published a few papers on Uranus’s atmosphere, a decided model has been assembled. During its mission, the UAV will be flying in an atmosphere comprised mostly of Hydrogen and Helium with pockets of cloud formations comprised of Methane and liquid water. The wind velocity varies widely and is vary latitude oriented but wind gusts within the atmosphere are expected to be in the range of 20cm/s. The figures below show the velocity profile with respect to latitude and the temperature to pressure ratio.