A new kind of project. In China, close collaboration between the public and private sectors would have enabled the construction (and successful testing) of a drone powered by a so-called “Rotary Detonation” engine (RDE).
More specifically, this research was carried out by the Industrial Technology Research Institute of Chongqing University, but also by the Shenzhen-based private company Thrust-to-Weight Ratio Engine (TWR), according to the South China Morning Post on Monday, 25. September , citing multiple national media sources.
This test (which also includes a first flight) would have taken place in the Chinese province of Gansu at an unknown location, the English-language daily states. This innovation could pave the way for the development of future drones that can move at unprecedented speeds.
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What is the concept?
At the moment, little is known about this device, other than the few images captured during the ignition of the drone’s “rotational detonation” engine (named FB-1 RDE) and shared by the same newspaper. For example, it is not known whether this 5 m long drone can fly for a long period of time with such a motor.
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What exactly is a so-called “rotary detonation engine”? The concept is as follows: a detonation wave travels around a circular channel, the shape of which resembles a ring. The fuel and oxidizer – a chemical substance whose property is to allow a fuel to burn – are then injected into the channel through small slots, as explained on the Interesting Engineering website.
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A detonation is then triggered by an igniter in the mixture of fuel and oxidizer; The detonations are then self-sustaining after the engine is started. The combustion products then expand out of the duct … before being expelled by the incoming fuel and oxidizer, continues the online magazine dedicated to the innovations.
According to Chinese media sources, a joint project between Chongqing University’s Industrial Technology Research Institute and Shenzhen-based private company Thrust-to-Weight Ratio Engine to build a new RDE drone was a “success”.https://t.co /QS936RHFwM
— Interesting Engineering (@IntEngineering) September 25, 2023
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Towards significant fuel savings?
In appearance, RDEs closely resemble the Pulse Detonation Engines (PDEs) used on the German V-1 “Doodlebug” flying bombs during World War II.
However, the special feature of these new types of engines is that no bleeding is required after each pulse, analyzes the South China Morning Post. If these engines were further developed, they could contribute to significant fuel savings.
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The problem, however, is that RDEs suffer from instability and are particularly noisy compared to other forms of aerospace engines.
According to information from the Chinese press, this RDE engine had already undergone several ground tests before being attached to the drone for its first flight.
In the Chongqing Morning News columns, we also learned that this engine uses kerosene and has rapid ignition. On the other hand, it could help an airplane (whose speed is zero) reach “many times the speed of sound.”
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