3D-Printed UAV Uses Advanced Composites
Hypersonix Launch Systems announced on 29 March it has been awarded a A$2.95 million ($2.21 million) grant from Canberra to work on a reusable hypersonic platform.
The Cooperative Research Centres Projects grant, awarded under the DART CMP [Composite] Airframe project, is aimed at developing a UAV that can travel at speeds up to Mach 12, powered by the company’s Spartan hydrogen-fuelled scramjet. Hypersonix is sharing the grant with the University of Southern Queensland, LSM Advanced Composites, and Romar Engineering.
“The development of new high temperature composite materials in this project will enable the DART CMP to be reusable,” said the company, adding the project is expected to deliver a new sovereign manufacturing capability for high-temperature, oxide-oxide ceramic matrix composites. Among the deliverables are a complete UAV airframe, including composite aeroshell and aerodynamic control surfaces, flight avionics, and hydrogen fuel system.
Hypersonix Managing Director David Waterhouse said the DART CMP UAV is the composite version of the DART AE multi-mission hypersonic UAV, due for launch in 2023. He pointed out that AE stands for ‘additive engineering,’ and is the fully 3D-printed version, from high-temperature alloys already available in Australia. “The type of high-temperature composites we require for the DART CMP are currently not available here, therefore there is an urgent need to develop these materials in Australia […] We are thankful that the government acknowledged this gap and responded with accepting our application. We can’t wait to have these materials ready in mid 2025”.
The company said that 3D printing will be used wherever possible, an area to be covered by Romar Engineering. It also noted that the DART CMP UAV will undergo hardware-in-the-loop bench-testing as part of flight readiness.
The latest developments come after the Australian DoD opened a Hypersonics Research Precinct in January, designed to help government, industry, and academia advance defence projects focused on high-speed and hypersonic flight research and technologies.
Defence Minister Peter Dutton said at the time that the A$14 million ($10.5 million) centre at Eagle Farm in Brisbane is meant to provide a location for the domestic and international partners to “advance our understanding and use of hypersonic technology through flight test vehicles […] The technology that is developed here will help Australia to better defend against the malign use of this technology. It will also give us the ability to strike any potential adversaries from a distance and deter aggression against Australia’s national interests”.
Australia is also known to be co-operating with the US and UK on development of hypersonic and counter-hypersonic weapons under the trilateral AUKUS security partnership.