Surveillance UAV requires micro-etched components

15th April 2014
Nat Bowers

Featuring an array of small, lightweight and extremely precise components, an innovative miniature surveillance helicopter is benefiting from the high precision manufacturing capabilities of Precision Micro. The miniature unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) has fast become a key component in intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance activities.

The UAV engine operates using miniature motor laminations, etched to tight tolerances. The laminations utilise Precision Micro’s ‘R bond’ technique, which uses the photo resist protecting the material surface during chemical etching as the bonding agent. This approach offers improved performance versus conventional punched, riveted or welded laminations.

Eliminating the option of conventional machining, a further engine component, which requires micro radii, can only be produced by combining Precision Micro’s photo chemical etching and wire EDM technologies. After chemical etching a 1mm thick blank, a 100µm wire is used to profile the 0.1mm feature to sub 10µm tolerances, negating the option of conventional machining techniques, such as precision presswork or laser cutting.

Another component that could not be manufactured by conventional means is the magnetic pole plates used to tilt the rotors and steer the nano UAV.

For the helicopter to effectively navigate obstacles and identify hidden dangers and enemy positions, the composition of the base metal must not be compromised during manufacture. An ambient, non-contact process, photo chemical etching does not induce any material stresses, meaning original properties remain unaltered throughout the process. A highly flexible process, photo chemical etching relies on digital tooling, which enables design iterations to be carried out quickly and economically. With low set-up costs, the customer was able to try multiple components without incurring excessive charges and have them in hand in a matter of days.

Communication integrity to the ground elements is maintained by the miniature shielding cans also manufactured by Precision Micro, protecting the sensitive electronics from EMI and RFI interference.

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