Glider Towing eDrone

Votes: 5
Views: 1859

Gliding is a quite sophisticated aeronautical sport practiced in many countries. Although being a bridge for professional pilots training, it is not a popular sport due to its complex operation, high costs and one reason is the use of planes to launch and tow the gliders.

The cheaper glider launching method using winches is less used worldwide since applicable only to hilly country specialized glider ports.

The present proposal can change the picture of this already growing sport.

Typically, gliders are towed by airplanes that are large and expensive machines, requiring frequent maintenance, experienced pilots and having high fuel consumption.

We are proposing, instead of the glider towing launching, the use of an electric quadcopter drone that through electronic commands, automatically leaves a ground base and connects through an articulated mast carrying batteries (A) to a similar base (B) installed on the glider by a locker (C) (see 1). Another locker (D) will securely connect the drone to the glider.

Using the propellers thrust, the drone motor assembly (E) will tilt to vertical position (see 2), to act as the retractable thrust engines used in motorized gliders.

After taking off and reaching the desired altitude (see 3), the drone motor assembly will tilt back to the horizontal and the glider pilot will disconnect the drone using locker (C) carrying its already connected base (B) and separates from the glider (see 4). It will automatically fly back to its ground base having before left the glider base (B) in an area close to the ground base using locker (D).

Towing gliders with airplanes require the use of a long flexible cable that turns piloting more difficult for both pilots in special in an atmosphere usually disturbed by wind shears, and different turbulence intensities, including the airplane wake effect. Any error done by one of the pilots could lead to an accident involving one or both aircraft. The tow cable itself present the danger to be get caught in obstacles or people on the ground.

The use of a towing drone turns a glider into an airplane easily piloted by its pilot, with just the penalty of about a 10% glider weight increase, which compared to the ~ 500 kg of a towing aircraft means a great energy saving, also coupled with operating time savings like positioning the tow plane, connecting the cable, tow plane fueling, etc.

Battery powered drones can be recharged from local electric grid, sun or wind electric sources and have small maintenance cost, while ICE engine tow planes need special and expensive fuels and need to follow very strict and expensive maintenance programs.

Drones are the future and today we already have the necessary technology to implement this project practically anywhere.

New gliders could be manufactured with the drone latch on the top of the fuselage to receive the base (B) and the already existing gliders can undergo a simple modification to include it in a glider area that usually is structurally quite strong.


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  • Name:
    Roberto Stickel
  • Type of entry:
    Team members:
    Roberto (Neco) Stickel / Francisco Leme Galvão
  • Patent status: