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The core features of D*ICE-which
includes electrothermal panels
and algorithms to autonomously
detect and remove ice
With UAVs, just as with larger aircraft, the accumulation of
ice during flight on the wings, propellers, and tail can make
it hazardous to fly and even cause them to crash.
Sorensen says ice tends to build up on the leading edge
of the wings and stabilizers, propellers, and sensors.
Icing "has been identified as one of the most hazardous weather phenomena for manned aircraft," Sorensen
says. Frozen water on wings increases their weight-which
reduces lift and can cause an aircraft to stall. Ice on a propeller can increase drag and reduce thrust. And sensors
can lock up, interfering with the autopilot's ability to gauge
speed and altitude.
Airplanes use various methods to deice. Inflatable boots
can be attached to the wings and the stabilizers. When ice
accumulates on the boots, they can be inflated to break it
up. Continuous or intermittent electrical heat is used on
propellers, sensors, and other components.
The company filed for a U.S. patent on the technology.
An earlier version of D*ICE is described in a paper published
in the IEEE Xplore Digital Library.
To start, the company is focusing on the leading edge of
wings, Sorensen says. But the team aims to use its technology on other unmanned aircraft parts.
The team is writing detection and control algorithms to
allow the system to allocate the appropriate amount of
energy, Borup says.
UBIQ also is working on a unit to control the energy supplied to the thermal panels. "That allows us to deice in a
smart way, so that we're not blowing through energy at an
incredible rate," Borup says. "We need to be smart about
how energy is used onboard an unmanned aircraft, because
of its short flight time."
Icing on UAVs is a relatively new field of research, with
"unknown parameters," Sorensen says. He researched
several solutions for his Ph.D. project and ultimately settled
on an autonomous electrothermal system, which can be
lighter than mechanical and chemical deicing systems.
The electrothermal panels can be embedded in the wing
of a UAV during the manufacturing process or attached to
existing wings, Sorensen says. The panels are activated when
the system detects deviations from the expected aerodynamics of the UAV, indicating that ice is forming on the wings.
D*ICE uses two algorithms for icing detection. One is
based on the thermal response of the heating zones; the
other involves an aerodynamic approach in which the system estimates relevant parameters such as lift and drag and
infers whether they have degraded due to icing.
Because the D*ICE idea resulted from research conducted at
the university, the founders went through a technology transfer process, which gave the university part ownership of the
company, as well as royalties from sales.
UBIQ has received funding from a number of sources
including the Research Council of Norway. Borup expects
UBIQ to be ready for its Series A seed round in 2022. It is
also putting together a team of investors with the right competencies and profiles for an upcoming investment round.
"We're convinced that UBIQ is going to be a big success,"
Sorenson says. "Fundraising should get easier once customers report that the D*ICE solution is solving their icing problems and providing them with operational predictability."
This article originally appeared online as "UBIQ Aerospace Brings
the First Drone DeIcing System to Market."
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